Ngai Tahu oppose new version of act

By Claire Trevett

The Marine and Coastal Area Bill seeks to address injustices around the 2004 Foreshore and Seabed Act. Photo / Brett Phibbs
The Marine and Coastal Area Bill seeks to address injustices around the 2004 Foreshore and Seabed Act. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Maori opposition to the new foreshore and seabed bill is increasing, with South Island iwi Ngai Tahu saying it would rather keep the 2004 act than give Maori support to a 2011 version which was equally unjust.

Ngai Tahu representatives spoke before the Maori Affairs select committee in Christchurch yesterday, saying that while the Marine and Coastal Area bill was an improvement on the Foreshore and Seabed Act, it would leave most iwi and hapu no better off because the tests required to have customary title and rights recognised were unfair and too high.

The submission rejected the argument of the Maori Party co-leaders that while the bill was not perfect, it was all the current political climate allowed and it should be for future generations to try to improve upon it.

Ngai Tahu's submission quotes the iwi's kaiwhakahaere, Mark Solomon, as saying it would be better to leave it to future generations to take up the battle of fixing the injustices caused by the 2004 Act "rather than shouldering the burden of a history that alleges Maori support for a 2011 Act that is equally as unjust".

The iwi's stance is a turnaround from initial support for the bill from Mr Solomon as part of the Iwi Leaders Forum which was consulted when the bill was developed.

Ngai Tahu said the test for title and rights should be based on Maori custom and the intensity of each iwi's relationship with the coastline, rather than on exclusive use and occupation of the coastline.

It said High Court applications would be out of reach for most hapu and iwi because of the cost.

Two South Island iwi who were in the iwi grouping which triggered the 2004 Act have also rejected the bill.

Ngati Tama and Te Atiawa were among the Te Tau Ihu iwi which applied to the Maori Land Court seeking title of the foreshore and seabed in 1997 - a move which led to the Court of Appeal's Ngati Apa decision that iwi could test their title in court, and, as a result, the 2004 Act vesting the foreshore in Crown ownership which iwi were so opposed to.

Yesterday, Te Atiawa rejected the bill that was supposed to rectify that, saying the tests were "unreasonably high" and if they were not changed, it should not go ahead.

Both iwi submissions acknowledged the National Government and Maori Party for recognising the injustices of the 2004 Act and moving to repeal it and restore access to the courts for iwi claims.

However, Te Atiawa said "with frustration and disappointment" it was forced to conclude that, although different in important ways, it would make little difference to Te Atiawa.

The submissions will put further pressure on the Maori Party to reconsider its stance. It had helped develop the new bill and has argued it meets the promises of restoring access to the courts and providing for customary title, either through the courts or government negotiations.

Fisheries companies and local councils have also voiced concerns about the bill, including the effect customary title and the right of iwi to veto future developments might have.

- NZ Herald

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