Special coastal rights require explanation

The 150 coastal claims notified over the past week shows that the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011 has come back to bite the National Government a few months out from an election, Hobson’s Pledge spokesperson Casey Costello said today.

These claims were made under the law that replaced the highly controversial 2004 Foreshore and Seabed Act.

The issue turned the country upside down 13 years ago and we thought we had it resolved and here we go again, Ms Costello said.

The National Government in effect put coastal claims back on the table as a sop to the Maori Party when it helped repeal the Foreshore and Seabed Act in return for support, Ms Costello said.

The Marine and Coastal Area Act that declares that the common marine and coastal area that is incapable of ownership. However, Ms Costello said the raft of claims generated seek exclusive customary marine title which we all know is effectively ownership.

Prime Minister Bill English has uttered soothing words that few of these claims would succeed.

This is because Section 106 of the Act says that applicants must prove that a customary right:

  • has been exercised in the specified area,
  • that it continues to be exercised by that group in the same area in accordance with tikanga,  
  • has been used and occupied by the applicant group either since 1840 or from the time of a customary transfer to the present day.

What has not been explained is how the right to paddle canoes upon and fish from the sea within a few hundred metres of the beach in 1840 has been transformed into a customary title over the sea and seabed that extends 12 nautical miles from the high-water mark, Ms Costello said.

The Prime Minister has confirmed that some groups will be awarded such rights.

The Prime Minister is yet to explain why some New Zealanders will be awarded property rights far beyond those exercised in 1840, with the ability to exclude all other New Zealanders should they so wish, Ms Costello said.