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Some iwi will meet foreshore claim test, Govt says

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Chris Finlayson
Chris Finlayson

Wellington, June 22 NZPA - Some iwi will be able to meet the test for claiming customary title to parts of the foreshore and seabed, the Government says.

Since the agreement was announced last week to repeal the Foreshore and Seabed Act and replace it with legislation that allows Maori to seek customary title, lawyers have said the criteria for a claim -- exclusive use and occupation since 1840 -- will be extremely difficult to prove.

"There will doubtless be some iwi who can meet the test for customary title," Attorney-General Chris Finlayson said in Parliament today when he was questioned by Maori Party MPs.

"Although many iwi may be unable to obtain a customary title...they will still be able to enter into negotiations to obtain recognition of customary interests."

Labour MPs tried to find out how much of the more than 15,000km of coastline the Government expected to come under customary title.

Mr Finlayson was told he had previously mentioned 2000km, but he said that figure had been raised by the person who was interviewing him.

He said he had agreed the figure could be a rough estimate although it could be less than that.

"It will depend on iwi entering into negotiations or making an application to the court and it will depend on the facts as presented at any negotiation or in court," he said.

ACT MP David Garrett wanted a guarantee that the public would not be charged for access to any beaches that came under customary title.

"I have already made it abundantly clear that public access is guaranteed and I cannot for the life of me conceive of any reason why there would be charging for the average New Zealander enjoying public access," Mr Finlayson said.

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