Foreshore and seabed to be public

BY TRACY WATKINS
Last updated 14:00 31/03/2010

Foreshore and seabed law scrapped

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The foreshore and seabed is to be removed from Crown ownership and any "uninvestigated" Maori customary title extinguished by the last Labour Government's contentious Foreshore and Seabed Act will be restored, under proposals just announced.

A discussion document released today outlines the Government's proposals for what should replace the Foreshore and Seabed Act once it is repealed.

It says the Government believes it is time for a new approach to ownership.

"Instead of identifying an owner, the new legislation would explicitly provide that no one can own the foreshore and seabed. It will be declared to be a public domain."

If that proposal was adopted, new legislation would be introduced which would:

*Repeal the 2004 Act

*Remove Crown ownership of the public foreshore and seabed

*Provide for public access

*Restore any uninvestigated customary title extinguished by the 2004 Act

*Declare that no one owns or may own the foreshore and seabed - except areas which are already privately owned

*Provide that any customary title over the foreshore and seabed is recognised

*Protect the operation of existing property rights, such as fishing quota, or the creation of property interests, for example a court determining customary title.

Access would be guaranteed in, on and over the foreshore and seabed but subject to conditions, such as health and safety reasons in operational areas of a port and the protection of wahi tapu or burial grounds.

Attorney General Chris Finlayson said the Government was seeking feedback from the public on a consultation document outlining the proposals and there would be hui and public meetings across the country to discuss the issues.

The public domain proposal would see New Zealanders' rights and interests recognised, rather than being concerned with ownership.

The Government also proposed to restore the right to go to court to establish customary title as a form of recognition to parts of the foreshore and seabed, where this could be proved.

This would see the courts apply common law principles derived from Canada's experience of customary title and Maori tikanga.

The battle over the foreshore and seabed gave birth to the Maori Party, which won National's support for repealing the law as part of a confidence and supply agreement.

But while Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia welcomed the Government's commitment to repealing the act today, she suggested that Maori might "struggle" with its proposals.

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"I encourage our people, who might be struggling with those proposals, to seek guidance from their hapu, to return home to those hapu who have, for generation after generation, cared for te takutai moana on behalf of us all.

"Our priority is repeal - we promised our people we'd get it so that's our main objective. Beyond repeal is to get the best deal for our mokopuna," Mrs Turia said.

She hoped that repealing the act would bring an end to the "mamae [pain], hurt and injustices our people have had to endure", she said.

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