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Act now! Foreshore and seabed submissions

29 September 2003

Following on from the previous alerts, updates and articles we have circulated about the government’s reaction to the Court of Appeal ruling on foreshore and seabed; this has been written in response to the requests for us to put together a summary of points for people to include in their submissions on the 'Foreshore and seabed: protecting public access and customary rights' proposals.

If you have not already made a submission, please act on it now - it need not take more than a few minutes of your time, and it is extremely important that Pakeha opposition to the proposals is recorded so the government cannot say that all non-Maori support their confiscation plan. The deadline for submissions is this coming Friday, 3 October 2003.

Your submission can be as short or lengthy as you wish; and you do not need to follow the government’s question format. A letter of two or three sentences would be sufficient to register your views - simply say that you are opposed to the government’s foreshore and seabed proposals to take away Maori rights because the proposals are unjust / unfair / unnecessary / discriminatory / a demonstration of colonial arrogance which you cannot support / or similar; include your name and address so that it is accepted; and it would be useful for you to say that you are Pakeha / Tauiwi / a (whatever) generation New Zealander / European or however you describe yourself. Details of where to send your letter are included at the end of this message.

If you wish to write a longer submission, points you could make about the proposals include:

  • they reflect a colonial mind set which is simply not acceptable in this day and age;

  • they are scare mongering and divisive by implying that Maori will restrict public access to beaches unless ‘public domain’ legislation is introduced;

  • they fail to acknowledge that since 1840 it has been private owners, exploitative commercial enterprise and government agencies, rather than Iwi and Hapu, who have denied public access to the foreshore and seabed. Tangata Whenua have not excluded others, provided wahi tapu are respected and natural resources are not damaged or depleted;

  • they are a clear breach of Article II of the Treaty of Waitangi which reaffirms to Iwi and Hapu the Tino Rangatiratanga of their lands, all their possessions and everything they hold precious. To use these proposals as a basis for legislation would be an extraordinary breach and dishonouring of the Treaty of Waitangi by the Crown;

  • they are intrinsically discriminatory because the Crown has had no apparent difficulty in allowing the sale of land adjacent to the foreshore and seabed to private and foreign ownership in the past. Yet the prospect of Iwi and Hapu Tino Rangatiratanga, held prior to European settlement and reaffirmed in the Treaty of Waitangi, being confirmed by the courts appears to be intolerable to the government;

  • they are also fundamentally discriminatory because of the different treatment now being proposed for those who currently have private ownership of seabed and foreshore - negotiation and possibly compensation, as compared with the approach to customary title - confiscation and extinguishment.

    Further, if legislation based on the proposals is introduced, a massive injustice will have been perpetrated, and a source of substantial conflict and grievance into the future will have been created.

    You could also comment on the disgracefully short six week ‘consultation’ period; the inappropriateness of a schedule of hui run to a rigid government timetable; and the arrogance of this process, and of the behaviour of some government ministers attending the hui.

    Ways forward

    Although the mainstream media have reported complete rejection of the government’s proposals at every one of their ‘consultation’ hui, what has not been reported is that Iwi and Hapu around the country have suggested ways to move forward in relation to the foreshore and seabed.

    As but one example, Ngati Kahungunu have said: "If as the government suggests, its main concern is the protection of access and the need to prevent sale there are clear precedents in our law and tikanga in which covenants of access and non-saleability might be negotiated in each rohe to ensure that the domain is effectively used in ways that are consistent with tikanga. In that process we would also expect the Crown to require similar covenants of access and non-saleability from Pakeha owners of lands adjoining the foreshore and seabed."

    Statements such as this provide the basis for the way forward - but only if the government moves from their current monocultural position and abandon their notions of cultural superiority and inferiority. Some Crown Ministers have began to use the phrase ‘tipuna title’ in recent weeks, and Crown acceptance of tipuna title would indeed be a remarkable step forwards. However it is not something the government can tamper with, define or regulate; it is simply not theirs. It belongs, in every sense of the word, to Iwi, Hapu and Whanau.

    Points you could make about ways forward include:

  • that a fair and durable resolution may take years, possibly decades, and that precipitate unilateral action by the government will be disastrous;

  • that a ‘one size fits all’ solution simply will not work; this will most likely be resolved by negotiation at a local level between Iwi, Hapu and Whanau and local authorities;

  • that the implementation of any foreshore and seabed policy needs to be situated within a broad-based process of constitutional change in which the government negotiates with Tangata Whenua as equal parties to the Treaty of Waitangi. To do anything less will reveal government talk of ‘partnership’ as a hollow sham.

    You could additionally point out that the current seabed and foreshore debate is an excellent opportunity for a positive commitment to be made by the Crown and local government to work with Tangata Whenua and other New Zealanders, and to genuinely honour the Treaty of Waitangi, to the benefit of us all.

    Where you can get more information

    The government’s 'Foreshore and seabed: protecting public access and customary rights' proposals are available on-line. Further government material is available by telephoning 0508 Foreshore or 0508 367 374.

    Articles and statements about the government’s reaction to the Court of Appeal ruling, and on the proposals, are available here. Particularly useful for any submission are ‘Some Core Values for Resolving the Foreshore and Seabed Issue’ (prepared by Te Hau Tikanga, the Maori Law Commission) and ‘Statement by Ngati Kahungunu on the government proposals on the foreshore and seabed’. Some of the comments in previous Peace Movement Aotearoa alerts may also be useful, they are available here.

    Where to send your submission

    Submissions should be posted to Foreshore and Seabed Submission, PO Box 55, Wellington; or faxed to (04) 473 2508, or by email. You can make an on-line submission at - however, a major obstacle to making an on-line submission is that the feedback form is formatted, and includes outrageous questions such as "Do you agree that customary rights should be able to be held by whanau, hapu and iwi?" as though they are something which some agency other than whanau, hapu and iwi could determine!

    It would be very useful for our future work on this issue if you could send a copy of your submission to Peace Movement Aotearoa email,or post to PMA, PO Box 9314, Wellington, or fax 04 382 8173. Please indicate if you are happy for your submission to be made publicly available on the PMA web site, or if it is for our information only.

    We encourage people to distribute this alert to anyone who may act on it - but please note that if you copy it off this web page, the urls for more information will not be visible. If you want a text copy for forwarding, or for coding for your web site, just email and ask for it. Thank you.

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