Foreshore & Seabed Act may be toast

Attorney-General Chris Finlayson has announced the members of the panel to review the Foreshore & Seabed Act. They are:

  • former High Court judge and Waitangi Tribunal chair Justice Edward Taihakurei Durie
  • barrister Richard Boast, an Associate Professor at Victoria University specialising in property law and Maori legal issues
  • Hana O’Regan, an educationalist specialising in Maori culture and identity

The panel’s job TOR is to determine:

a) What were the nature and extent of the mana whenua and public interests in the coastal marine area prior to Attorney-General v Ngati Apa [2003] 3 NZLR 643

b) What options were available to the government to respond to the Court of Appeal decision in Attorney-General v Ngati Apa [2003] 3 NZLR 643

c) Whether the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004 effectively recognises and provides for customary or aboriginal title and public interests (including Maori, local government and business) in the coastal marine area and maintains and allows for the enhancement of mana whenua

d) If the Panel has reservations that the Foreshore and Seabed Act does not provide for the above, outline options on what could be the most workable and efficient methods by which both customary and public interests in the coastal marine area could be recognised and provided for; and in particular,
how processes of recognising and providing for such interests could be streamlined

Now without in any way suggesting the three panelists will pre-judge the issue, and not do a thorough job, I would be amazed if a panel including Judge Durie and Hana O’Regan came back at the end of the day and said “Yes we agree the best thing for the Government to have done was to legislate away the rights of Maori to test claims to title in court”.  That is highly unlikely.

The panel is to report by 30 June 2009, and the Government has said they will make decisions by the 31 December 2009.

I will not be surprised if we see a Foreshore & Seabed Repeal Act in 2010, and a very happy Maori Party.

Of course agreeing to repeal it is the easy part. What you replace it with, is considerably harder.

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