The High Court has confirmed Ngati Tama's title over the Wakapuaka estuary near Nelson. National MP Nick Smith is livid, claiming that this shows that the government's promise that Maori would not be able to gain freehold title to the foreshore and seabed was worthless. Except that this case has nothing to do with the Foreshore and Seabed Act, or with the precedent of Ngati Apa v Attorney-General. Ngati Tama's claim of ownership is not based on customary title, but on freehold title awarded in the 1880's and upheld three (now four) times by the courts since then. Some of the original documents have now apparently been lost, but this doesn't mean they don't own it, anymore than the government losing the original survey data would undermine title to your house.
Smith's longstanding refusal to accept to this fact and his repeated attempts to have the title revoked (he has been pushing it since he was Conservation Minister back in 1999) reveal the true attitudes behind National's stance on the foreshore and seabed issue. Rich, white people are allowed to own beaches. Brown people are not. This is not about equality under the law; rather it is about enforced inequality on the basis of race. There's no other way to say it: National's position on the foreshore and seabed is hypocritical and racist.