Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Foreshore and seabed

I'm busy going through the FAQ and slew of press releases about this on Scoop. On first glance, it looks like Maori come off as the losers. The beaches get transferred to the public domain (in other words, they belong to everyone - a neat short-circuiting of National's campaign), and while there is a process to protect customary usage rights, they are constrained by a prohibition on granting actual or effective ownership. The dreams of certain activists of owning parts of the foreshore and seabed have been crushed.

Of course, they were just that - dreams - but it is of concern. Yes, the court decision which sparked all this talked about the improbability of actually gaining such title, but the possibility was there, and now its not. If there is an iwi or hapu out there with a strong case for actual title, then they've been robbed. I would be happier if there was some mechanism for recognising such strong cases and settling them, rather than a blanket prohibition on any grant of title. (The cynic in me says that its been deliberately left out so the government can concede it to Maori in the next few months)

Other than that, I'm happy with the general thrust. We all get to go to the beach, customary rights can be legally recognised, and the activists who acted as if that possibility granted a certainty get told to fuck off. Everyone but the latter - and the rednecks who think that customary rights don't exist and shouldn't be recognised - ought to be happy.

Update: Yes, I know - according to the news last night, and the Herald this morning "financial redress would be available if the Maori Land Court found customary rights were such that, except for the proposal, would have led to the granting of a private title". So it's not so bad after all.