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Foreshore sideshow of statistics and . . .


Foreshore sideshow of statistics and . . .

Government appears to be trying to undermine the public's rights of access to the coast. However their spin doesn't stack up, according to Public Access New Zealand (PANZ).

Land Information Minister John Tamihere has claimed that over half the coastline is in private hands* but yesterday, in response to a parliamentary question specifically concerning the foreshore**, he stated that the figure is closer to one-third. However these figures are in fact for land ownership on dry land, and not over the foreshore as he implies. According to Department of Conservation advice to a parliamentary committee***, the extent of private ownership of the foreshore is less than one per cent.

Mr. Tamihere is on record as knowing that the foreshore is between high and low tide****. His reply to the parliamentary question therefore appears to be an attempt to mislead Parliament and the public of New Zealand, according to PANZ spokesman Bruce Mason.

The government spin is to the effect that "New Zealander's will be surprised to learn how little access rights they now have". This appears to be a ploy to deceive the public and to soften them up to accepting far less than the customary use of the foreshore that they rightly regard as their birthright.

The recent Court of Appeal decision that gave rise to Government's sudden interest in this issue was confined to the foreshore and seabed. It had nothing to do with the dry lands above. Improvement of access TO the foreshore can be, and should be, dealt with separately by Government. In this regard they have an obligation to the electorate to honour their election promise to extend the Queen's chain, Mr. Mason said.

If the ownership of adjoining dry land is really such a pressing obstacle to resolution of the foreshore issue as the Government now portrays, their own statistics fail them.

So what if one-third of adjoining dry land is privately owned? Two-thirds is not, and is available for public access along and to the shore mainly through provision of the Queen's chain.

As part of its response to the Land Access Reference Group's report, Government should concentrate on improving public access by filling in the gaps in the Queen's chain and by other measures. They should not use the presence of private land on-shore as a pretext for possible loss of Crown ownership of the foreshore and seabed, and for instigating constraints on public use, Mr. Mason concluded.

* Dominion Post, 29 July 2003 ** Response to Parliamentary Question #4, 6 August 2003. *** DOC Paper to Select Committee, 9 August 1993 **** Dominion Post. 1 July 2003. John Tamihere. Storm brews on foreshore

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