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Certainty restored to foreshore and seabed

18 November 2004

Certainty restored to foreshore and seabed

“New Zealanders will discover when they go to the beach this summer that the effect of the Foreshore and Seabed Bill, passed today, is to preserve the status quo,“ Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen said.

“Crown ownership is confirmed and traditional rights of public access are safeguarded.

“Groups will be able to secure customary rights orders protecting their right to continue any activities, uses and practices they have been exercising substantially uninterrupted since 1840. This does not include customary fishing rights as these were provided for separately in the fisheries settlement.

“All the legislation does is codify into statute existing common law rights. Nothing more, nothing less,” Dr Cullen said.

“Where a group can demonstrate that, but for the passage of the Bill, they would have held a Territorial Customary Right equivalent to exclusive use and occupation, they will be able to seek from the High Court the establishment of a Foreshore and Seabed Reserve or approach the government to discuss other redress options.

“The Reserve would acknowledge the guardianship status of the group but would also be held for the common use and benefit of all New Zealanders.

“These provisions were inserted at the instigation of the Maori caucus as a mechanism to both ensure Maori can have their day in court and also to recognise Maori kaitiakitanga.

“Similarly, the concerns raised by the port companies and other holders of reclaimed lands have been acknowledged by assuring the ports an automatic right to renew their leases on existing terms where the land is needed for port infrastructure and giving existing leaseholders priority in applying for a lease extension.”

Dr Cullen thanked the government members of the select committee, the Labour Maori caucus and New Zealand First for the constructive approach they had taken toward improving and Bill and getting it through the House.

“It would have been easy to play the politics of division in an attempt to secure a short term advantage but they chose a higher course.”

He said that the emotionalism which had characterised the issue had tended to obscure the fact that the ambit of the Bill was quite small.

“Essentially it seeks to remedy two problems created by the Court of Appeal Ngati Apa decision.

“The first of these was the unsettling of a long-held assumption by successive governments that the foreshore and seabed was Crown-owned. Three times Parliament has legislated to that effect and the Resource Management Act is unworkable without it.

“The second was to align the law to Parliament’s original intention which was that the Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993 should apply to dry land only. Had Parliament intended the Act to incorporate the foreshore and seabed, it would have provided the tools for the Maori Land Court to recognise Maori customary interests without awarding a full fee simple title.

“The Bill provides that scope.

“A lot of the anger around this issue stems from a fundamental misconception of what the Court of Appeal actually said. It did not say Maori owned the foreshore and seabed, only that the Maori Land Court had jurisdiction to hear Maori customary land claims.

“And the Court made clear its views that these would be unlikely to apply to large areas,” Dr Cullen said.

“We have been through an exhaustive process in developing the policy contained within the Foreshore and Seabed Bill. I think the final legislation provides a lasting solution and one which can take us forward as a country.”

ENDS


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