Foreshore and seabed legislation to be repealed

10:09, Jun 14 2010

Prime Minister John Key has announced plans to repeal the 2004 Foreshore and Seabed Act after an agreement was thrashed out with the Maori Party.  

Co-leader Pita Sharples said it was a good day for the Maori Party after the two parties agreed on a raft of measures, including removing the foreshore and seabed from crown ownership.

It will instead become a public space though neither party has agreed what that should be called. Previously the government had proposed calling it "public domain".

Existing Maori and Pakeha private titles would continue unaffected as would public access and existing navigation and fishing rights.

Prime Minister John Key announced the agreement after talks today with the Maori Party and iwi leaders.

"It has been my view as prime minister that it's important for the nation to settle these issues so it does not remain as a weeping sore," he said at a press conference.

"I can report that the National government, the Maori Party and iwi leaders have agreed a common position on the foreshore and seabed issue."

Mr Key said a bill would be drafted and the Government hoped to introduce it to Parliament in August.

There will be a select committee process for public submissions, and the Government aims to pass the bill by the end of this year.

The new legislation is substantially the same solution the Government put forward earlier this year as its preferred option.

There have been additions, including the two-track regime for seeking customary rights and title and the establishment of universal recognition orders.

Customary title will cover development rights, and the right to veto development by others. Some mineral rights will be conferred.

The universal recognition orders will recognise the links an iwi has with the foreshore and seabed, but will not confer any rights.

Maori Party co-leaders Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia said they had fulfilled a long-standing promise to repeal the Foreshore and Seabed Act, which did not permit iwi to seek customary title through the courts.

"It is a great day for our party...by working with iwi leaders and the National Party we've been able to produce some significant advances," they said.

Iwi leaders, however, were less enthusiastic about the agreement.

They had wanted more, and said in a statement their "wish list" had not been delivered.

Mark Solomon, chairman of the Iwi Leaders Group, said the iwi representatives had worked hard to keep the dialogue with the Government open.

Tukoroirangi Morgan, chairman of Waikato Tainui, said agreement had been reached on "important matters of principle" that provided a strong foundation for further work.

Sonny Tau, chairman of Ngapuhi, said significant gains had been made and there was a need to keep moving forward.

Mr Key announced these decisions:

- The 2004 Act would be repealed and replaced with new legislation.

- The foreshore and seabed currently vested in Crown ownership would be replaced by a public space incapable of being owned;

- Existing Maori and Pakeha private titles would continue unaffected;

- Customary title and customary rights would be recognised through access to justice in a new High Court process or through direct negotiations with the Crown; and

- To establish customary title, iwi would need to meet a number of tests which would have applied if the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004 had not been put in place.

Mr Key has previously said he thought very few iwi would be able to meet the criteria for seeking customary title.

He said today he still held that view.

Dr Sharples said that for those who had not been directly affected by the 2004 Act, nothing would change.

- By TRACY WATKINS, Stuff.co.nz, and PETER WILSON and CHRIS ORMOND, NZPA

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