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Human rights offer way forward in foreshore debate

Human rights offer way forward in foreshore and seabed debate

Using a human rights framework to consider the issues of customary title and public access to the foreshore and seabed is essential to a fair outcome, the Human Rights Commission told the Fisheries and Other Sea Related Legislation Select Committee today.

The Commission acknowledged the positive recognition of the strong cultural connection all New Zealanders feel with the coastline, the protection of public access and rights of navigation and the importance of non-alienation of areas of New Zealand’s coastline within the Foreshore and Seabed Bill.

“The Bill reflects the common ground New Zealanders have in not only valuing access to the foreshore and seabed but seeing it as an important part of their identity,” Chief Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan says.

The Commission’s submission focused on whether the Bill complied with both domestic and international human rights obligations and whether any limits on these rights were justifiable and reasonable.

The submission identified potential breaches of:

The rights of minorities;

The right to freedom from discrimination;

The right not to be arbitrarily deprived of property, and compensation and;

The right to development.

The Commission’s first recommendation is that the legislation does not proceed. Instead it proposes a clean-slate debate without a predetermined outcome to reach a true New Zealand consensus on our coastline.

However, if the Bill is to proceed, the Commission recommends, at a minimum, a number of changes that are required to address the Bills’ current potential to breach human rights.

These changes include:

Retain the ability for courts to recognise proven customary title for parts of the foreshore and seabed;

Guarantee compensation for any loss of proven customary title (under the territorial customary rights scheme in the Bill);

Provide an avenue of appeal for unsuccessful applications for territorial customary rights;

Remove the time limits, for recognition of customary rights, from the Bill;

Remove limits on recognising customary activities that have been interrupted by other laws.

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