The organiser of a hikoi which marched peacefully down Auckland's Queen Street today says the new foreshore and seabed legislation breaches the Treaty of Waitangi.
The hikoi of about 100 people left Cape Reinga on Monday and today crossed the Auckland Harbour bridge by car convoy before continuing on foot along Queen Street.
Police monitored the hikoi and closed one lane of traffic as protestors headed slowly to Aotea Square, watched by dozens of office workers and tourists who stopped to take photographs.
Organiser Ropata Paora told NZPA the Marine and Coastal Areas (Takutai Moana) Bill was an illegal document.
"The second article of the Treaty states clearly that we maintain sovereignty of our lands and fisheries, so this new legislation would put it into common space, which means they've taken that away from us and we can't let that happen.
"We're adhering to the articles of the Treaty," Mr Paora said.
The hikoi opposes the Government's replacement legislation, and aims to arrive in Wellington on Tuesday next week, in time to oppose the final reading of the bill. However, the bill could be passed this week.
"At the moment, they're trying to forward their schedule so they can push the legislation through before we get down there.
"It's in the House at the moment so it may be this week, but we heard it would be March 22 or 23, so we'll be down there on Tuesday," Mr Paora said.
Whiria Meltzer, 20, of Kaitaia, joined the hikoi yesterday in Whangarei.
"I don't want building on our beaches and land. It's a sign for us to stand up for our rights and show our support," Mr Meltzer said.
The legislation repeals the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004 and gives iwi the ability to seek customary rights and customary title through negotiation with the Government or the High Court - although they will still have to prove exclusive use and occupation since 1840.
The bill will remove the foreshore and seabed from Crown ownership and makes it a public place - essentially the same as a public domain - with access guaranteed and no one having the right to sell any of it.
Attorney-General Chris Finlayson said he hoped the bill would pass by the end of the week but that depended on MPs and whether any tried to deliberately delay the process.
The Maori Party, formed over anger at the previous foreshore law, backed the Government bill - with the exception of Hone Harawira, who is now an independent MP. The bill is also supported by United Future, which gives the Government a slender majority.
Labour leader Phil Goff said his party would continue to oppose the bill and he criticised the process, which he said had been undemocratic from the start. It was also opposed by the Green Party and ACT.
The bill passed its second reading 62-56 last week and still has to go through its committee and third reading stages before becoming law. The Government is changing the bill so that recognition of customary title would be given effect through legislation rather than signed off by the Cabinet, meaning every case would get full parliamentary and public scrutiny so opponents of the title would have multiple opportunities to revisit the case.
In 2004, when Labour passed the Foreshore and Seabed Act, a hikoi travelled the length of the country, swelling to about 20,000 people before arriving in Wellington.