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Treaty Minister Andrew Little and the High Court are about to surrender ownership rights over massive areas of New Zealand's coastline to private Maori interests.
Politicians told us lies: They reassured us that hardly any claims would succeed as claimants had to prove that they had used the area "exclusively” since 1840. But the first “Treaty style” agreement awards the tribe 15 km of beach, even though the public had used the beach for fishing, swimming, hiking and the like since 1840. Unless the law is changed, Minister Little and the High Court are likely to grant coastal tribes irrevocable ownership rights over massive areas of beach and seabed.
What you need to know:
Public ownership Until a few years ago New Zealand's entire coastline, the foreshore (the bit that gets wet) and seabed (extending 22km out to sea), was owned by the Crown on behalf of all New Zealanders.
Confiscation In 2011 National passed a new racist law, the Marine and Coastal Area Act, which confiscated public ownership and created Customary Marine Title, which only Maori could claim. The public (including Maori from other tribes) will be relegated to visitors to tribally owned beaches, areas that we once ALL loved and shared.
Claims As a result, private Maori interests lodged nearly 600 claims that will take decades and hundreds of millions of dollars to resolve.
Secret deals The law allows claims to be negotiated by a Minister without scrutiny.
Lies National Party politicians reassured us that hardly any claims would succeed as claimants had to prove that they had used the area "exclusively" since 1840. But the first Agreement awards a tribe title to 15km of beach, even though the public had used the beach for fishing, swimming, hiking and the like since 1840.
Why does it matter?
Coastal owning tribal aristocracy The new law will create and enrich a coastal-owning tribal aristocracy, which may gain ownership of valuable seabed minerals, charge for boat ramps, block competitors wanting to set up businesses such as mussel farms, and charge fees for cultural "consultancy", which nobody wants or needs.
We think that our valuable seabed minerals (worth billions) should be owned by all New Zealanders for the benefit of all New Zealanders.
Private beaches “Sacred areas” will become off-limits to non-tribal members, enforceable by fines, and tribes will be able to ban coastal activities according to unwritten tribal law.
Tribal bully boys Some tribal members have already illegally blocked public access to "their" beaches.
Inter-tribal tension The hundreds of overlapping claims will create tension between Maori, which will linger for generations.
Resentment If the law isn't changed, we face a future filled with resentment, with arguments in Court and fights on beaches.
How are claims being resolved?
Many of the hundreds of claims will lead to private Treaty style "deals" negotiated between the Minister and his officials and tribal leaders. The public is excluded and Parliament usually signs such deals off. The rest of the cases will be heard in the High Court.
Corruption Treaty style negotiations, conducted behind closed doors, open the way to political corruption. The first Agreement, negotiated by former Minister Chris Finlayson (and which Parliament hasn't yet signed off), grants the tribe rights to manage riverbed hangi stones up to 22km offshore. While this sounds absurd, it was simply a way around the rules laid out in the Act to allow tribal leaders to control a massive area of seabed.
Issues with the High Court Instead of throwing overlapping claims out (the claimants can't all have used the beach "exclusively"), it appears that the High Court will allow claimants to divvy up the coastline between them.
No public body is defending public rights Only a handful of men and women, largely lacking in legal skills and funding, have been left to defend public ownership of our foreshore and seabed in perpetuity. Even worse, some claims may be successful simply because no one or group has the millions of dollars or time needed to defend public ownership against the hundreds of claims and appeals before the courts.
Taxpayer funding To add insult to injury, taxpayers have been asked to fund tribal claims up to $412,000 per claim. This has already cost us tens of millions of dollars and will likely cost hundreds of millions.
How many New Zealanders support the radical Maori agenda?
Politicians may fear a return of the "hikoi from hell". But in the 2014 election, just 31,850 or 1.3% of New Zealander voters supported the Maori Party’s radical agenda. And these 31,850 votes represented just 7% of voters of Maori descent. The other 93% of Maori just want to get on with their lives as ordinary Kiwis.
Public ownership needs to be restored NOW before public rights are irrevocably transferred to private Maori interests.
The only way out of this mess is to change the law to:
- restore full rights of public ownership over the foreshore and seabed
- affirm the right of tribes to continue customary activities
- repeal Customary Marine Title
- end secret deals with the Minister by moving all claims to the High Court
- allow tribes to enjoy the same rights (no more, no less) as those enjoyed by other private groups seeking to protect the environment
- provide compensation to anyone who would be out of pocket as a result of these changes
Petition to the New Zealand Parliament:
We the below signed urge Parliament to amend the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011 as mentioned above so as to restore full legal and beneficial ownership of the public foreshore and seabed to the people of New Zealand.
Thank you for your support on this important issue.
Don Brash & Casey Costello
The petition can be found on line by googling "change.org "Restore NZ beaches to public ownership", or click here.
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What happens to the claims?
All claims will be transferred to the High Court where they can proceed under the amended rules.
What about the first signed Agreement?
Parliament should refuse to ratify the corrupt Ngati Pahauwera Agreement. Pahauwera itself was unhappy with the Agreement and is continuing to pursue two cases for the balance of its unmet claims through the High Court. Please refer Ngati Pahauwera Agreement
What about the Mutton Bird Islands Case?
The tribe’s customary practice of landing waka will be unaffected by the removal of Customary Marine Title.