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Cautious Maori reaction to foreshore and seabed proposals

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Phil Goff
Phil Goff

Wellington, April 1 NZPA - The Labour Party is dismissing the Government's foreshore and seabed proposals as "a whole lot of platitudes" while Maori appear to think a lot more work needs to be done before final decisions can be made.

The Government's preferred option to replace the Foreshore and Seabed Act is to declare it a public domain, which no one can own, while reasserting the right of Maori to seek customary but not freehold title through the courts.

Prime Minister John Key says if there isn't widespread support for alternative legislation the existing Act will remain in place.

The previous government enacted the Foreshore and Seabed Act following a 2003 Court of Appeal ruling in the Ngati Apa case that raised the possibility, in some narrow instances, for Maori customary title to convert into freehold title.

That had the potential to put parts of the coastline under Maori control, and Labour legislated against it.

Widespread Maori opposition followed, and Tariana Turia quit Labour to form the Maori Party.

The current Government reviewed the Act and decided to repeal it -- when an acceptable alternative could be found.

The proposal document released yesterday is the first stage in finding an alternative, and initial responses were less than enthusiastic.

"All we've got is a whole lot of platitudes and nothing new," said Labour's Maori affairs spokesman Parekura Horomia.

He said he couldn't see anything in the proposals that wasn't in the existing legislation.

Labour leader Phil Goff described the proposals as "window dressing" but said his party was ready to work constructively with the Government.

The Maori Party's goal is to have the Act repealed, and Mrs Turia said the proposals brought that "one step closer to reality".

Ngai Tahu spokesman Mark Solomon described the proposals as "a stepping stone" and said more work would have to be done to achieve an enduring solution.

"I believe lasting resolution will come with new thinking and creative solutions that recognise the relationship iwi and hapu have with natural resources under tikanga and the interests of all New Zealanders," he said.

Mr Key said the public domain concept was a pragmatic way to heal a "weeping sore".

"The intent here is to put this issue to bed in a satisfactory way to the bulk of New Zealanders," he said.

"I don't think you are going to get every Maori New Zealander agreeing with this, let's be realistic."

The discussion document makes clear the public domain concept is the Government's preferred path.

Other options include:

* Restoring the right to claim customary title but retaining notional Crown ownership until customary rights were proven;

* Tinkering with the status quo; and

* Vesting ownership in Maori, determining who would hold ownership in a given area, while recognising others' rights.

Under all the options, the parts of the foreshore and seabed currently in private ownership or subject to existing property rights would remain that way.

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