Some are for this bill, some are against it, but I think what I am seeing is inaccuracy, xenophobia and hysteria around the bill in general by a few loud voices who are being listened to and believed as if they were Jesus Christ himself spelling out the Gospels.
For me, I don’t have a huge issue with this bill, I never have, and I don’t buy into the conspiracy theories that all of a sudden NZ coastlines will be under lock and key with local Iwi denying access.
But rather than an opinion piece today, let’s just start with some facts about the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill.
In 2004 the then Labour government blocked Maori the ability to have their day in court and challenge to see whether ownership of the foreshore and seabed was their right, this Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill redresses this.
So what does the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill do now that it has passed?
The Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill allows Maori to go to the courts to put their case for ownership (of sorts) to their ancestral foreshore and seabed. Maori can also negotiate with a Minister one on one, but if they do the negotiated agreement must then be put before parliament to be either approved or not. What the bill doesn’t do is hand the keys to our beaches over to Maori to the detriment of every other person living in NZ. There is due process to go through and Maori have 6 years to lodge a claim.
Maori need to prove exclusive use and occupation of the foreshore and seabed since 1840, which I think will actually be very difficult to do but if they do they will then be granted a new form of property right called ‘Customary Title’
What is Customary Title?
Customary Title is a new form of ‘ownership’ that has many provisions attached to it. If an Iwi get Customary Title they cannot sell the land and they cannot block access for any recreational use of the beach such as swimming or recreational fishing and boating. Under Customary Title Maori can say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to developments on that land including things like marinas and wharfs, they can make money out of minerals excluding gold, silver, petroleum or uranium as they are owned by the crown (which is another conversation altogether). Under Customary Title Maori can also charge developers for the right to build on the land and they will have a say in decisions around planning and conservation. Finally Maori will be able to protect sights deemed culturally significant.
All these provisions apply to the foreshore and seabed, which is the from high tide mark out to sea about 26m kilometres. It doesn’t include above the high tide mark, and it doesn’t include any land adjacent to the beach itself.
Let’s bring some context to this idea now.
The Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill will affect about 2,000 kilometres of our coastline, or about 11%, and we have groups like the Coastal Coalition and ACT scaremongering that Kiwis will lose access to all beaches.
In 2003, prior to the whole Foreshore and Seabed Act debate starting, the then Labour Government was looking into the Queens Chain. The Labour Government released some figures showing that of the “18,000 kilometres of New Zealand coastline, around a third, is in private hands.” So right now, about one third of our coastline is owned privately, mostly by non-Maori. Those private owners can have say over what developments happen on their land, they can make money off developers and they have say over planning and conservation. But most importantly you can be denied access to those beaches because it’s private land.
ACT and the Coastal Coalition seem to not have mentioned to NZ that this is the case already, surely if they had the courage of their convictions if would be better for New Zealanders if they started the process to take back one third of our coastlines from those who already own it, and have a much more detrimental legal use of them than the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill will ever give Maori.
Here’s the thing, what you are hearing from those loud voices telling you that you will be denied access to the beaches is opinion, not fact. Now everyone is entitled to an opinion, no matter how ignorant it may be, but my desire is for people to make their own opinions based on the facts laid before them, which is hopefully what I have done in this post. My one concern is that New Zealanders are hearing opinion, taking it as fact, and spreading it as if it is Gospel.
If you read this article, and come to the same opinion as the ACT party, then bless you, at least you can’t claim ignorance. For me, as I said at the start, this Bill is not something I am worried about, and I think that if anyone is being divisive in this conversation it’s those spreading opinion and rumour as fact.