Agreement reached on Foreshore & Seabed

It was looking wobbly, but the howls of victory from Labour were premature. John Key has just announced an agreement in principle with Iwi leaders and the Maori Party. Key details are:

  • The 2004 Act will be repealed and replaced with new legislation
  • The foreshore and seabed area currently vested in Crown ownership will be replaced by a public space which is incapable of being owned in a fee simple sense (ie can never be sold)
  • Existing Maori and Pakeha private titles would continue unaffected
  • Customary title and customary rights will be recognised through access to justice in a new High Court process or through direct negotiations with the Crown
  • The test for customary rights and for customary title under a replacement regime will be the same as in the consultation document, and reflects the position the Govt thinks the Courts would have come to if the previous government had not imposed the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004

A bill will be introduced in August, which will be open to public submissions.

The devil may be in the detail, but on what we know so far I have to say I think it is a considerable improvement on the status quo:

  • Property rights of existing title holders are protected
  • Iwi and hapu have their right to go to court restored
  • The public foreshore will remain with a right of access to all, and can never be sold into private hands
  • The test for customary rights and title will broadly reflect the test the courts would have probably applied

Just as there is no one universal view of women, or youth, there will be no universal view of Maori on thsi deal, but I suspect it will be welcomed by the majority.

And I think many non Maori will welcome a package that restores the right of a group of New Zealanders to test their claims in court.

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