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Cullen - Government proposals on foreshore-seabed

17 December 2003 Media Statement

Government proposals on foreshore-seabed

A public domain title vesting ownership in the people of New Zealand and a regime to protect Maori customary rights are at the heart of the government’s promised mid-December foreshore and seabed policy statement, released today by Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen.

“Those private titles in existence will be respected.

“But new impetus will be brought to efforts by successive governments over a long period to recover these titles,” he said.

The proposed package was comprehensive, internally coherent and offered benefits to all New Zealanders; greater certainty of public access, protection of Maori customary rights and better input for Maori into the management of the marine coastal area.

“The framework, legislation for which will be drafted over the summer for introduction in early March, provides for the recognition of customary title and customary rights. Both are communal and inalienable but are achieved through slightly different procedures.

“An independent statutory commission with appropriate expertise will move systematically around New Zealand examining, according to tikanga Maori, who holds mana and ancestral connection over which areas.

“It will then recommend to the Maori Land Court where customary titles should be issued. The Court will notify all interested parties of the commission’s recommendations and provide a period of time for objections to be lodged.

“In the event of an objection, it will conduct hearings to determine the issue. If there are no objections, it can issue a customary title. This title will not impede access but will entitle the holder to greater participation in the decision making processes for managing the relevant resource than is available to the general public.

“The Maori Land Court will also have the ability to annotate to the customary title specific customary rights at the whanau, hapu and iwi levels. Examples might relate to the extraction of sand, use of space for waka launching and preservation of burial sites,” Dr Cullen said.

“These mechanisms will replace the provisions of the Te Ture Whenua Maori Act and the High Court’s common law jurisdiction in relation to these issues, and the Maori Land Court will be given more resources to equip it for its new responsibilities.”

Dr Cullen said the customary rights would be strong rights but subject to regulation through the Resource Management Act to ensure sustainability.

“A number of instruments exist now to protect Maori customary rights, including the RMA, the Fisheries Act and the Local Government Act. But these systems do not always or everywhere work as well as they could.

“To address these problems, the government will establish and resource 16 regionally based working groups comprising central government, local government and Maori to reach agreement on how Maori participation in coastal management might be improved.

“Once these agreements are concluded, they will be formally recognised by the Crown so that the commitments in them become legally binding.

“Where Maori already exercise effective guardianship over the local coastal marine area, the government will move to ensure that these roles are able to be maintained,” Dr Cullen said.

“The net effect of these changes will be to give recognition to rights which are not currently recognised and to put more teeth into existing consultative and participative arrangements with Maori.

“We have consulted extensively as we have developed these proposals including public meetings, hui, across the table dialogue and 2165 written submissions - and we will continue to consult. The government will have full regard to the report of the Waitangi Tribunal following the January hearings, and people will have a second opportunity to have input during the select committee stages of the Foreshore and Seabed Bill.

“I believe the solution we are offering New Zealand today is fair and finely balanced and urge everyone to consider it in the whole and in a constructive spirit,” Dr Cullen said.

ENDS

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