Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Illustrating the real issues

Just when the foreshore and seabed is back in the news, there's a court case which perfectly illustrates the real issues involved. In 1865, Charles Hatfield built a hotel on a triangle of land near the Wellington railway station. In 1942, the hotel was compulsorily acquired by the government to house US troops, and the government retained it after the war as it was "required for defence purposes". It has never been used for such purposes, and now the family is suing to get it back.

No doubt people will point to the obvious difference - that Maori claimants have not proved ownership of the foreshore - but that's a red herring. Whatever your opinion on the merits of their claims, it is unquestionable that there are facts there which can be discovered by a court. It can be shown that either they owned it, or they didn't. The important difference is that in the hotel case, the crown legally acquired the land (and subsequently breached its duty to return it). In the case of the foreshore, it has not (or at least, not universally; various parts of foreshore and seabed have been acquired under various acts governing harbour boards and such, but that, like ownership, is a fact to be discovered by a court). The question for opponents of Maori claims to the foreshore then is why they are not also opposing efforts by this family to regain their property?


The diference is that most peopel dont think the foreshore is ownable. Any more than the radio waves the air the moon antartica or outer space.

One could claim it is ilegitimate to deny the US the right to own the moon or deny maori the right to outer space directly above NZ but few take it seriously because we accept the right to make some things unownable.

As for the comparison - Personally I dont care much for the family you are talking about, and I sure dont think they should get the land or 9 million, but it isn't worth me getting out of bed to think about it since it's only one house. the foreshore is a hell of a lot more significant.

Posted by Genius : 3/15/2005 11:36:00 PM