Herald on Seabed & Foreshore

The Herald editorial:

John Key struck an optimistic note as he confirmed that the foreshore and seabed law would almost certainly be repealed and a replacement found. “I think this is not as difficult as everyone says. I’m not saying it’s not challenging. But it’s not impossible,” he said.

The challenge is what is in the replacement.

Mr Key has pointed out that there is still the option of repealing the law with no replacement. This would mean a return to the status quo and allow claimants to test cases in the Maori Land Court and the High Court.

While it is an unlikely option, it makes a big difference that it is not ruled out from the beginning. This means that any agreed solution is deemed preferable to simply repealing the law.

The Maori Party expects a replacement policy by the end of this term of government. Labour has pledged to act constructively. The bottom line for the Government will be New Zealanders’ continued unfettered access to the beach. The Maori Party will have ease of recognition of customary rights as its top priority.

That suggests claims will be kept out of the hands of judges, and this will be a process of tinkering, not transformation. The change will probably be minor. But tackling them in a wholly different atmosphere will be a major improvement.

I’m not sure how major or minor any changes will be, but a genuine negotiations does produce better outcomes that insisting from the beginning that retrospective legislation will apply.