Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Other solutions to the foreshore

While the Foreshore and Seabed Bill has passed its first hurdle, that hasn't stopped other solutions from being proposed. Here's two:

Fighting Talk:

Let the land court handle the claims. Legislate so that, if the court finding would confer the right to bar public access or to sell the land, that must be ratified by Parliament. That satisfies the public positions of everybody this side of National, and probably some people on the other side as well.

Well, this is certainly better than the current plan, and I think the need for ratification would encourage negotiation by both parties. And OTOH, requiring ratification by Parliament is blatantly stacking the deck, and will turn any property rights recognised by the court into a political football.


* allow the law to grant title to foreshore where Maori can prove they have a right to it

* set up a legal structure which protects access to and enjoyment of important areas of New Zealand.

This gets to the heart of it in recognising that its not ownership that matters to pakeha, so much as the right of recreational usage. And the government is creating just such a legal structure with the customary rights mechanism. If they granted universal customary rights of access, navigation and recreational usage on all foreshore, then it wouldn't really matter who owned it.

The sticking point, obviously, is existing property owners. There are some who need to be able to restrict access (ports, for example); others would need to be compensated. However, the former can be dealt with by tweaking the RMA (which already allows people to restrict access to public foreshore with the right permit), and the latter would seem to be a damn sight cheaper than compensating for full expropriation.

The Bill is currently heading to Select Committee, and isn't due back before the House until November, so there's still time to encourage the government not to shame us all.