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Paeroa Declaration On The Foreshore And Seabed


- Moana Jackson.


This Paper gives some background to the Declaration on the foreshore and seabed that was issued at the Paeroa hui of Iwi and Hapu on Saturday, July 12, 2003.

It also contains explanations of the terminology used in the Declaration and answers some misconceptions already raised in the media and by various politicians.

It is based upon transcripts of the discussions at the hui which led to the Declaration as well as the written submissions received from those Iwi and Hapu that were not able to be present. The Declaration itself is a synthesis of the views of the Hui.


Resolution One:

The foreshore and seabed belong to the Hapu and Iwi under our tino rangatiratanga.

This resolution simply reaffirms that the foreshore and seabed have always been under the jurisdiction of Iwi and Hapu as part of the authority of tino rangatiratanga.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi acknowledged that jurisdiction as part of the “exclusive and undisturbed” possession of lands and taonga etc.

Resolution Two:

We reaffirm our tupuna rights to the foreshore and seabed as whenua rangatira.

This resolution recognises that in Maori law and philosophy the foreshore, the seabed, and the land are all interrelated.

The term “tupuna rights” acknowledges that the rights are derived and take legitimacy from ancestral precedents. It also acknowledges that they have never been relinquished (as the Court of Appeal in fact also decided).

Resolution Three:

We direct all Maori MPs to oppose any legislation which proposes to extinguish or redefine customary title or rights.

This resolution simply urges Maori MPs to support the wishes of Maori people as clearly expressed at the hui. It is directed quite deliberately at all Maori MPs, and not just members of government.

Perhaps more importantly it acknowledges that the government authority to extinguish or redefine Iwi and Hapu rights is itself an assumed one with precedents based solely on the power taken by colonising States to dispossess Indigenous Peoples.

Resolution Four:

We support all Hapu and Iwi who wish to confirm their rights in the Courts.

This resolution is obviously a recognition of the rangatiratanga of each Hapu and Iwi to pursue the issue in the way it thinks best.

However it also acknowledges that the government attempts to pass legislation vesting ownership of the foreshore and seabed in the Crown effectively denies Iwi and Hapu access to the Courts – they deny the due process of its own law.

Resolution Five:

The government must disclose its proposals to whanau, Hapu and Iwi immediately, whose decision to accept or reject will be final.

This resolution arose from concern that not only was the government’s original decision to legislate made without reference to Maori, but all subsequent policy proposals have involved only minimal Maori participation.

It was also a recognition that discussions with government Maori MPs was not a Treaty-based dialogue but simply the Crown talking to itself.

Resolution Six:

The final decision on the foreshore and seabed rests exclusively with whanau, Hapu and Iwi.

This resolution was simply a reaffirmation that decision-making on this issue is properly an exercise of rangatiratanga.

It was also a signal that Crown appointed functionaries did not have the authority to make such decisions and that while other Maori bodies such as the New Zealand Maori Council or Te Ohu Kaimoana might have expertise to offer the final decision had to rest with those to whom the rights belong.

Resolution Seven:

We accept the invitation of Te Tau Ihu to host the next hui.

This resolution acknowledged the need for further work on the issue and also recognised the role that Te Tau Ihu have played as parties in the case heard by the Court of Appeal.


Is the Declaration a statement denying access of non-Maori to the beaches?

No. It is simply a clear and definitive synthesis of Maori views that the foreshore and seabed have always belonged to Iwi and Hapu.

A declaration of rights in that sense is never a claim to deny access. Indeed even though the claim that Maori would deny access has often been repeated in the last several weeks it is mischievous and dishonest.

What does the term “tupuna rights” mean?

It reflects the fact that the seabed and foreshore are vested in the ancient authority of rangatiratanga. They are part of what may be called a “tupuna title”.

Are they like guardianship rights?

The obligation upon Iwi and hapu to be kaitiaki is part of the tupuna title but kaitiakitanga itself is only a part of the broader authority of rangatiratanga.

Are tupuna rights use rights?

They include the right to use taonga on agreed conditions.

It has been suggested that they are only limited to the use of the resource because Maori had no concept of European-style ownership. However rights never exist in isolation – they must be derived from somewhere and in Maori law they are sourced not in a notion of individual ownership but in the collective authority of rangatiratanga. Without that authority there are no use rights.

Did the Hui have a mandate to make such a Declaration?

In Maori terms it clearly had such a mandate as most Iwi were represented and many of those unable to be present made written submissions.

In spite of the short time available to organise the hui and the limited resources available to do so, the fact that over 1000 people attended is further testament to the validity of the views expressed.

The Acting Prime Minister Jim Anderton has commented that “I don’t take this particular declaration very seriously because I don’t think it has any standing” is simply a gross misrepresentation of Maori realities.


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