Unnoticed amongst all the earthquake coverage was a small article in the Weekend Dompost on the foreshore and seabed deal. Apparently, ‘public domain’ will no longer appear in the new legislation. Instead, we’ll have a new name, possibly ‘takutaimoana’, Te Reo for ‘seabed’. That sound you can hear Winston Peters is rubbing his hands with glee.
National’s foreshore and seabed deal is essentially a restatement of Labour’s. It has some interesting changes (such as veto rights) that may well end up having some far-ranging consequences but iwi are still prevented from re-obtaining ownership of land that was taken from them and the test to get any rights recognised remains high.
I have always said that the only just solution is to treat the foreshore and seabed the same as any other land dispute (you don’t even have to rely on the Treaty). If someone or an organisation owned land and they were then deprived of that ownership illegally then redress is due. It might not always be practical to return land if that would result in new injustices on people who have invested in that land in good faith since the theft would themselves be deprived of property but those issues can be settled through negotiation just as with other land settlements.
Neither National nor Labour want to go there because, for some reason, they have let the foreshore and seabed take on a mythical quality – handing back hundreds of thousands of acres of forest is fine but the thought of ‘the beaches’ being returned gets people in a tizzy.
So, National just went for essentially a renaming of Labour’s law. ‘Crown’ became ‘public’, ‘ownership’ became ‘domain’ – no difference in reality. And no new name will change the substance either.
But it might matter symbolically. Especially if a Maori name is used. That would kick the backlash from conservatives/rednecks up to a whole new level. ACT and New Zealand First are likely to be the only parties opposing this new law as being too generous. I reckon we’ll see New Zealand First start to poll over 5% in the coming months.