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Bathing at the beach unlawful - law change needed

Bathing at the beach unlawful - law change needed

Government's decisive resolve for legislative action reasserting the Crown's ownership of New Zealand's seabed and foreshore is an important first step, recreational lobby group Public Access New Zealand believes. This issue was a litmus test for Government, but more remains to be done.

The beach and coastal environment is part of the national consciousness, being the most valued and visited outdoor recreation setting in New Zealand, PANZ spokesman Bruce Mason said.

What hasn't been revealed so far is that the public have no lawful rights of recreation over beaches and foreshores despite being owned by the Crown. This is because in law this is private Crown estate, despite a popular presumption that it is held for the benefit of all New Zealanders.

Other than rights of navigation, there are no rights for anyone to walk, bathe, picnic surf-cast or do anything else at the beach. They are there by mere sufferance of the Crown as owner and could be evicted at any time. The leading case is Blundell v Catterall 1821 (UK) where it was held that the public at common law have no right of bathing in the sea or of crossing the foreshore for that purpose. Blundell's case has been applied in New Zealand. There are no statutory rights of recreation, only controls.

So what most people take as their birthright is illusionary. Decisive legislative action is needed to assure the public that this and future governments will not be able to deny that right.

Government should create statutory rights of foot and bathing recreation over beaches and foreshores. PANZ believes that restrictions or prohibitions to recreation should be confined to special nature reserves, port and defence areas.

References Blundell v. Catterall [1814-23] All E.R. Rep. 39 Crawford v Lecren (1868) 1 N.Z.C.A. 117. King, A P. 1968. The Foreshore; Have the public any rights over it? NZ Law Journal (1968) 254.

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