Espiner on Foreshore & Seabed

I’ll start with Colin’s conclusion:

Key might think that we’ve entered a new age of multiracial harmony, and I’d like to think so too. But I’ll say this: National underestimates the depth of public feeling about ownership of the foreshore and seabed at its peril. If Key thinks that the public will be placated simply by being guaranteed access – and no longer having the beaches in public ownership – then I think he is, for the first time in his premiership so far, completely and utterly wrong.

First of all there is a difference between beaches and the foreshore. The foreshore is that part between low and high tide. Beaches tend to be the stuff above high tide.

Colin agrees with me that the outcome doesn’t look hard to guess:

Let’s be clear: the review of the act announced today is a jack-up. It has only one possible conclusion – repeal the Act. Why do I say that? Well, the panellists on the review are all sympathetic, to say the least, to the Maori Party’s cause: Judge Eddie Durie, a former chairman of the Waitangi Tribunal, which has slated the Foreshore and Seabed Act; Richard Boast, an academic specialising in Maori land alienation; and Hana O’Regan, daughter of Tipene O’Regan, a Treaty lawyer.

I think jack up is a harsh word, but make no mistake this is a panel that would regard the current law as the least favoured options. They still have to do the hard work of devising a more acceptable option.

There are a number of options that I can think of, if the law is repealed. First of all, it is worth remembering that the Court of Appeal set a high threshold for any claim to title. Something along the lines of continous customary use.  But what are the options for a Government if title was granted:

  1. Do nothing – it is for an area that the public never use anyway
  2. Offer to buy the title
  3. Negotiate an access agreement
  4. Offer a deal – title is exchanged in return for say some Landcorp land.

Now there are pros and cons of all those, and it isn’t quite that simple. But the point is there are several options that can be explored in good faith.

I await the work of the panel with interest.

I am also fascinated by how Labour will handle this. If Goff campaigns against any repeal, then they may lose significant Maori support – and any hope of getting some seats back. But equally it is a nightmare if John Key and Pita Sharples pull off a deal that works – that would just make Labour look so bad for not even trying to reach a deal before kneejerk announcing they will legislate.

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