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Not repealing foreshore law will mean years of grievance: PM

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

Wellington, March 31 NZPA - Failing to repeal the Foreshore and Seabed Act would mean future governments would be left to deal with decades of grievances, Prime Minister John Key said today

A discussion document released today said the Government preferred to declare the foreshore to be public domain, but reassert the right of Maori to seek modified customary title through the courts.

Mr Key said the public domain concept was a pragmatic way to heal a "weeping sore", but if there was not wide support then the current law could remain in place.

"The intent here is to put this issue to bed in a satisfactory way to the bulk of New Zealanders. I don't think you are going to get every Maori New Zealander agreeing with this, let's be realistic," he said.

"If we retain the status quo, I will tell you something for nothing, this might be a tough issue but future governments will have to end up dealing with it in the same way that I am currently dealing with treaty settlements that come from the 1870s and 1880s."

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia said the proposals went some way to settle some of the grievances held by Maori.

"The main concern is around repeal, access to justice and about our people's ability to take it to court," Mrs Turia said

"Our priority is repeal - we promised our people we'd get it so that's our main objective. Beyond repeal is to get the best deal for our mokopuna," Mrs Turia said.

Mrs Turia said customary title and rights were a property right, but agreed it did not mean freehold title

The definition of what is meant by customary title, the rights that come with it and what hurdles would have to be met to get such title will be a crucial part of the month-long consultation period.

Mr Key expected "quite difficult" tests to be set.

Mrs Turia said the public domain concept was just one of the options to be discussed, though Government ministers were clear it was by far the preferred option.

Labour leader Phil Goff said National's preferred option showed that the whole process had been window dressing.

"John Key gave the game away earlier this week when he admitted that he did not 'think people will notice a lot of change' between what is in place now and the new Act National is proposing," Mr Goff said.

"The Maori Party has been knocked back yet again by National. After fighting to repeal the Act, and promising supporters a big change John Key has come out and confirmed that after the Foreshore and Seabed Act is repealed, it will be replaced by the same bill - with just a different name and dressed up a bit."

Shadow Attorney-General David Parker said the proposals appeared to be symbolic and Labour was open to looking at the proposals being put forward.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei also thought the Government was proposing little change, but did not like Mr Key's stance.

"You certainly don't start a consultation by threatening those you are discussing it with by saying 'if you don't agree with this we will just keep the status quo'," Mrs Turei said.

The concept of public domain was originally proposed by United Future leader Peter Dunne in 2004, but was dropped when New Zealand First refused to back it.

Mr Dunne said he was delighted the proposal had been revived as it was an inclusive and long term solution to the problem caused by vesting the foreshore in Crown ownership

NZ First leader Winston Peters said the proposal was ridiculous and would create decades of court cases and uncertainty unless a future government sorted it out.

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