Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Why does it matter what we call it?

Much is being made of Trevor Mallard's to-ing and fro-ing over whether the foreshore will be public domain or in crown ownership. I don't think it matters. The core of the "public domain" concept is open access for all, and a restriction on the government's ability to sell (whether outright prevention or simply requiring an Act of Parliament and the public scrutiny it would involve). But as we can see from the Foreshore And Seabed Endowment Revesting Act 1991, this is already the case for all foreshore actually in crown ownership. In other words, the argument here is not about substance, but about what to call it. "Crown ownership" is highly symbolic, both to some Maori, and to the "one nation" traditionalists in National; "public domain" gets points for making it clear that the foreshore is set aside for public enjoyment. But really, what does it matter what we call it, provided we can all go to the beach?