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Alliance foreshore and seabed position

Thu, 27 May 2004

Alliance foreshore and seabed position

The Alliance is opposed to the Labour Government's proposed legislation on the foreshore and seabed, President Jill Ovens says. In its story about the new Maori Party (Tuesday, May 25), the New Zealand Herald picked up on a press release written by the Alliance President in February referring to the Government's December proposal and incorrectly reported that the Alliance President supports the Government's legislation.

"The press release was written at a time when Trevor Mallard had just been installed as Treaty Minister in a knee-jerk reaction to Don Brash's Orewa speech. I believed that the Labour Government had lost its nerve," Ms Ovens says.

"At the time, the Government announced it was engaging in an exercise to see if there were 'race-based' policies. I called on the Government not to back down in the face of Brash's racist attacks." Ms Ovens says she is personally opposed to the Government's Foreshore and Seabed legislation which, in a compromise with right-wing political parties, moved to a position of Crown ownership and extending customary rights to non-Maori.

"Customary rights are based on the rights of indigenous people and guarantees under the Treaty of Waitangi, so they can only apply to Maori," Ms Ovens says.

Furthermore, the Government has dropped the more progressive elements of the original proposal such as the removal of private title to the foreshore and seabed.

"This created an inequity in which Maori were denied the opportunity to test the extent of their property rights, while the property rights of wealthy individuals were left intact."

Ms Ovens says she supports forms of common ownership in the foreshore and seabed and Maori "customary title" (referred to in the December proposal) is consistent with this. However, unlike the December proposal, she sees no problem with an expansive definition of such title, including rights to commercial development and veto rights over other commercial proposals.

"I do not support blanket assumption of Crown ownership and can see no reason why current arrangements that include regional council control of some areas of the foreshore, and joint management with iwi and hapu in other areas cannot continue."

She says many are concerned about Crown ownership as the Crown has a history of selling off public assets.

"The defining principles on which I think most New Zealanders agree (including Maori) is that whatever form of 'ownership', the foreshore and seabed should never be on-sold (ie it should be inalienable) and public access should be preserved."

ENDS

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