Yesterday’s announcement that the Government will repeal the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004 was a significant win for the thousands of people who joined the hikoi to parliament in 2004 to protest at legislation that many described as a modern day confiscation.
When the Ministerial Review Panel reported back in June 2009, they recommended that first that the Act should be repealed. Broadly speaking the concerns were related to the active discrimination against Maori in denying Maori the right to pursue claims through the Court; while also expressing the concern about the Crown’s power to alienate the public foreshore and seabed; in so doing seriously breaching the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi by denying active protection; expropriating Maori property and denying Maori options to due process.
The concerns have continued over the past six years, bringing together iwi leaders, hapu, whanau and thousands of New Zealanders who attended the consultation hui and made submissions to implore the Government to repeal the Act.
What bought them all together is their belief that the foreshore and seabed should be held by the Treaty partners as a taonga tuku iho (a treasured inheritance) that cannot be sold and must be cared for, in the long term interests of all our mokopuna and we are now so much closer to achieving that.
For me the repeal of the Act will mean the Maori Party can fulfil a long-standing promise that started with negotiating a review of the Act as part of our confidence and supply agreement with the National Party, repeal and restore access to justice through the courts.
I am very pleased that the enduring mana tuku iho of tangata whenua has explicit recognition, as part of their ongoing relationship with the foreshore and seabed, alongside customary rights and customary title.
This will lead to the development of customary title which is innovative, captures inalienability and expresses the unique application of tikanga and the participatory rights guaranteed under the treaty.
For most New Zealanders there will not be a great deal of difference and their public access is retained.
But for those New Zealanders who were actively discriminated against, the new law will make a big difference. It will restore their access to justice and will enable their customary rights and interests to be expressed.
I hope it will also go some way to address the enduring hurt the 2004 Act created and enable them to move to a more optimistic future.
I am extremely proud of the collaborative approach that has been taken to get us to this point and I also acknowledge that there will be ongoing work as we work through devising a replacement Act.
It has been really great to see the National Party enter into a treaty-based dialogue and I would also like to acknowledge the work of the Iwi Leadership Group in ensuring we were well informed about their views on replacing the Act. My hope is that the relationship that has developed through the negotiations with iwi leaders over the last 19 months will set a new standard for a treaty based relationship on any manner of other issues.no