HoS on Foreshore Act repeal

The HoS editorial:

Attorney-General Chris Finlayson stayed away from the House as the first-reading debate began on the bill repealing the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

It was a gracious gesture: although the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill is in his name, he wanted Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia to be first to speak to it.

It was a fitting acknowledgement of the role she played in wrenching the 2004 legislation from the jaws of history.

Which shows that one MP can make a difference.

Unfortunately, some try to depict the repeal as an act of surrender to Maori demands that ancient entitlements be honoured in modern law. But that is very far from being the case.

The 2004 act was a sledgehammer response to a Court of Appeal decision that had not “given” Maori anything: it had suggested that Maori might be able to seek customary title in the Maori Land Court to parts of the foreshore and seabed.

The Clark Government pre-empted that right; the act now before the House restores it. To quote Turia, it reopens a door that was slammed shut.

That is for me the key aspect – that Maori New Zealanders have had restored their right to go to court.

In any case, for those seeking customary title, the bar is set high: applicant iwi must demonstrate virtually uninterrupted exclusive use and occupation of the areas since 1840; areas to which title is granted cannot be sold; and free public access must be preserved.

Which is one reason why Hone Harawira is not supporting it. He thinks that the entire foreshore and seabed should be in Maori title. I believe the correct test is what the Court of Appeal set down – uninterrupted exclusive use and occupation since 1840.

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