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Foreshore and Seabed position out this week

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
John Key. Pic: NZPA
John Key. Pic: NZPA

Wellington, March 29 NZPA - The Government's preferred replacement for the current Foreshore and Seabed Act will be revealed this week, Prime Minister John Key said today.

Cabinet today approved a discussion document for release and Mr Key said it would clearly outline the Government's preferred replacement for the current law and options on how it might work.

"Looking at the discussion document it canvasses all the issues. It spells out fairly clearly the options. It does present a number of options for people to consider. It is a thoughtful document. I think it provides a credible way forward that is better than the current legislation," Mr Key said.

The Maori Party seemed happy with the progress and had attended all Cabinet discussions about the issue, he said.

"They care greatly about a repeal of the 2004 law, but they would acknowledge that iwi and hapu up and down the country would have a different view about what should replace it."

Following its release there would be a consultation period for four weeks. Legislation would then be drafted for introduction later this year.

The controversial Act followed a 2003 Court of Appeal ruling in the Ngati Apa case that raised the possibility, in some very narrow instances, for Maori customary title to convert into freehold title.

That raised the possibility of parts of the foreshore and seabed coming under Maori control, and potentially restricting public access to the coastline.

The previous government was not prepared to accept that position and legislated against the ruling, causing widespread unrest among Maori and the resignation from the Labour Party of Tariana Turia, who went on to form the Maori Party.

The National Government appointed a panel to review the Act as part of its post-election deal with the Maori Party.

It recommended its repeal and said interim legislation should be put in place until the politicians worked out a way to recognise Maori rights to coastal areas.

The current law sets up a process to recognise customary claims and practices on coastal areas, but many Maori feel it stripped them of rights.

Some have called for repealing the law with no replacement.

This would be a return to the status quo and allow Maori to test their cases in court, but Mr Key has said in the past he did not believe iwi leaders supported this idea any more.

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