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Foreshore Debate (10 Oct)
An excerpt from lawyer Grant Powell (Mana Magazine):
The obligation to recognise the property rights of indigenous people first arose in western legal thought following the colonisation of Mexicao and Perus in the 16th and 17th centuries. That obligation developed into the doctrine of aboriginal title, and became part of English Common Law. In fact, the Treaty simply reaffirmed those rights.

In the early 1990s, the booming marine farming industry in the Marlborough Sounds saw water space suitable for marine farming in increasingly short supply. The customary rights asserted by the eight Marlborough iwi were all but ignored through the administration of the Resource Management Act.

Marlborough iwi had a 100% failure rate in opposing applications for marine farming on customary grounds and a 100% failure rate in pursuing their own resource consent applications.

The final straw was the decision by he Crown to impose a moratorium on marine farming applications in the Marlborough Sounds as the forerunner to imposing a coastal tendering regime for marine farming.

Had the coastal tendering regime been would have led to the privatisation of large areas of the coastal space within the Sounds. Now the Crown positions itself as the guardian of public rights within the coastal marine ares - yet it was the policies of privatisation that compelled iwi to file the Marlborough Sounds application.

Some seven years after the application was filed, the Court of Appeal held that the Maori Land Court had jurisdiction to investigate whether the foreshore and seabed of the Marlborough Sounds was Maori customary land.

It did not say that the land belonged to Maori but rather was a preliminary decision in a long and complex case.

The Prime Minister states that ownership of the foreshore and seabeds traditionally lies with the Crown.

All hell breaks lose...

A Statement from the Treaty Tribes Coalition:

Very soon the Government plans to introduce legislation into Parliament which will take away the rights of some New Zealanders to have their day in court. Lawyers would call it a constitutional outrage. It puts every New Zealanders rights at risk.

Last year, after eight years before various courts and at a cost of many millions of dollars - the Court of Appeal agreed unaminously that eight Marlborough iwi had a right to put their case on the foreshore and seabed before the New Zealand courts.

Let us be very clear.The Court of Appeal did not rule that Maori have an ownership interest in the foreshore and seabed, just that these eight iwi have their right to be heard in court.

Beach access is just a political distraction, its not an issue.

The Government refused to accept the ruling of the Court of Appeal. The Government disagreed with the court, so it simply decided to change the law.

We respect the law and we respect the role of the courts. That means we have to accept the judgements of the courts, even when they rule against us.

We most strongly believe in the right of every New Zealander to be heard in court. That right is all we seek for Maori just as we expect it for everyone. The Governments unconsitutional legislation must be stopped. Or else every New Zealanders rights are at risk.

Here is an examination of the legislation by lawyer Moana Jackson:

The Bill has 117 clauses and four schedules but only refines and details matters already telegraphed in advance in various policy statements.

Defining The foreshore And Seabed

Clause 4(a) of the Bill defines the foreshore and seabed as the marine area bounded
(i) on the landward side by the high water line...
(ii) on the seaward side by the outer limits of the territorial sea.

Commentary –

The Bill formalises the legal division of a small coastal strip and sea from the rest of the whenua which prior to 1840 was clearly part of the whenua or rohe of Iwi and Hapu. It belonged to those tangata whenua who exercised mana or rangatiratanga in relation to it.

As such it was part of the mana whenua of an Iwi or Hapu and was preserved under Article Two of both the Maori and English texts of the Treaty within the rangatiratanga or ‘full, exclusive and undisturbed possession’ of Maori.

Vesting In The Crown

Clause 3 (a) “vests the full legal and beneficial ownership of the foreshore and seabed in the Crown to ensure that the public foreshore and seabed…is preserved in perpetuity for the people of New Zealand”.

Commentary –

The Bill extinguishes Maori rights in tikanga and the common law and replaces them with full Crown title.

By referring to “public foreshore” the Bill excludes areas that are already privately owned, most of which are in non-Maori hands.

The clause means that the rights of Maori are taken away, while the property rights of non-Maori are protected.

The vesting is in effect a confiscation that clearly breaches Article Two of the Treaty and standard common law rules.

By protecting non-Maori but not Maori rights the Bill also breaches international human rights norms such as the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Racial Discrimination.

Prohibitions On Sale

Clause 12 states that “no part of the public foreshore and seabed may be alienated or otherwise disposed of (except) by a special Act of Parliament”.

Commentary –

Land could never be sold or alienated under a customary rights regime based upon and properly exercised through tikanga. That prohibition has been one of the few effective barriers to the large scale privatisation of assets undertaken by the Crown since the 1980’s.

The great majority of foreshore areas or land areas fronting the foreshore that are currently in private ownership were sold not by Maori but by the Crown through Acts of Parliament. Access to those areas has been blocked not by Maori but by private owners or by the Crown and its agents such as District Councils and Port Companies.

The retention of a Crown right to sell raises the very real possibility that further areas of the foreshore may be privatised and sold in the future. The protection offered by some form of Maori title is removed.

The Invention Of Ancestral Connection

Clause 3 (c) “acknowledges the expression of kaitiakitanga by recognising the ancestral connection of Maori with the public foreshore and seabed”.

Clauses 35 and 39 give the Maori Land Court jurisdiction to grant “ancestral connection orders” to an “established group of Maori that has had since 1840…an ancestral connection” to an area of foreshore.

Clauses 84 to 89 amend the Resource Management Act to include references to “ancestral connection” in the “matters to be considered” in local government decision-making.

Commentary –

“Ancestral connection” is a new invention that can be established in three ways
(a) “in accordance with tikanga” as defined by the Crown in Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993
(b) in a Treaty settlement or
(c) by owning private property next to the foreshore.

However it does not lead to consequent ancestral rights or title determined by tikanga or the common law but merely “more effective participation in decision-making”.

It delivers an order acknowledging whakapapa but none of the authority that whakapapa implied in the exercise of rangatiratanga.

It gives nothing more to Maori than the existing limited rights under the Resource Management Act and divorces kaitiakitanga from rangatiratanga by re-positioning it as a limited role of co-management or consultation. To local government it simplifies “the process of determining who should be consulted”.

Due process to achieve an “ancestral connection order” does not therefore achieve a due recognition of Maori rights and title but is instead an administrative exercise of more practical benefit to local government than to Maori.

It replaces the extinguished rights with a mirage of recognition.

The Recognition Of Customary Rights

Clause 28 invents a new set of rights called “territorial customary rights” that would have been recognised before the passing of the Act as “common law…customary rights, customary title, aboriginal rights (or) title or as rights or titles of a similar kind”.

Clause 29 creates a new High Court jurisdiction to grant a new “customary rights order” to any group of New Zealanders that would have “held territorial customary rights” if the “full legal and beneficial ownership of the public foreshore and seabed” had not been vested in the Crown.

Clause 31 suggests that the Court should grant the new rights with reference to any “ancestral connection order” and any evidence of customary fishing or “overall territorial association” with a particular area of public foreshore and seabed.

Clause 35 outlines the jurisdiction of the Maori Land Court to also consider applications for a “customary rights order”.

Clause 64 states that the holders of an order may exercise it for a commercial benefit derived from the customary activity provided that it does not exceed the scale of a customary activity.

Clause 111 states that the new rights and “ancestral connections” may be “recognised” in Treaty settlements between Iwi and the Crown.

Commentary -

The Bill takes away the right of Maori to due process for hearing tikanga-based or common law claims to customary title to the foreshore and seabed.

It replaces them with a court hearing that actually mocks due process by stating that Maori will effectively only get the rights they would have had if the Crown hadn’t taken them away.

It also restricts the rights to a set of traditional activities such as the taking of hangi stones or the launching of waka.

It denies a right of development and freezes Maori in an 1840 exercise of rights where the only “commercial benefit” may come from say the paying of fees for waka launching.

The new customary rights are discriminatory because the Bill places no restrictions on non-Maori whose property rights are able to be developed.

Perhaps most importantly the “decoupling” or separation of the new “rights” from the ancestral connection of whakapapa and title effectively neutralises the rights and turns them into mere interests that diminish the status of the Treaty and make tangata whenua of no more substantive importance than a Rotary Club.

The decoupling also means that the traditional common law notion of customary rights is reconfigured to allow grants to non-Maori which further diminishes the Treaty relationship.

Non-Maori thus not only have their normal property rights protected where Maori don’t but they also have access to the new “customary rights”.

For Maori the new “rights” regime is essentially just a set of meaningless fictions.

The Effect Of The New Rights

Clauses 68 and112 require that any “customary rights order” must be registered with the CEO of the Ministry of Justice in a new “foreshore and seabed register”.

Clause 33 requires that the orders be referred to the Crown to “consider the extent of any redress that the Crown may give”.

Commentary -

Once the new rights are “registered” Iwi and Hapu may have “discussions” with the Crown about whether any redress will be made for the fact that the rights have actually been taken away by the Crown.

“Redress” is not defined in the Bill but the government has stated “We have the ability to control and manage. The Crown will enter into good faith discussions as to how proposals for partnership can proceed in the future in those cases – which will be relatively rare – where a…right might have been recognised”. (Parliamentary debate, April 8, 2004).

Redress for the “rare” cases of Maori getting a right that doesn’t really exist anymore is effectively limited in practice to a “partnership” in decision-making under the Resource Management Act.


In spite of the detail of the Bill and whatever “rights” or “redress” it purports to offer, the fact remains that it takes away the foreshore and seabed from Maori.

After 1840 most of the other whenua was of course confiscated under various laws but Maori rights in the foreshore and seabed were never actually extinguished. By default the Treaty was in fact honoured and the common law respected.

The Bill confiscates what little Maori have left.

It therefore raises profound issues of morality and justice that cannot be masked behind complex clauses or the invention of illusory rights.

It also raises fundamental issues of political honesty where most of the political parties (and most of the Maori MPs) only differ in the degree and haste with which they want the confiscation to occur.

It also mocks their alleged faith in “one law for all” by creating a dishonest law that clearly reduces Maori rights and status to a lesser position.

It thus establishes further grievances that will be revisited in the future and a fundamental abuse of power for which the major political parties are all culpable.

Government Cabinet Minister Tariana Turia announced her resignation today in steadfast opposition to the Foreshores legislation led by her party. While being maligned by the likes of broadcaster Paul Holmes, called a 'useless tub of lard', this courageous woman of principle has spent weeks and weeks talking with many different groups about her accountablities and responsibilities before making what would have only been a very considered decision. Holmes only serves to demonstrate his lack of grasping anything that smacks of integrity.

Not many politicians would resign from top posts because their governments policy clashes with those whom they represent. Tariana has demonstrated courage and integrity and that must always be remembered.


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