Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Foreshore repeal Bill should go to select committee

Good sense on the Foreshore and Seabed Act in yesterday's Herald from former law professor Jock Brookfield, much of which it's impossible to disagree with. He lays out bluntly the rational basis for sending to select committee the Maori Party's present Bill for repeal of the Act:
In the Marlborough Sounds case in June 2003, the Court of Appeal held that Maori customary communal title in areas of sea land (of foreshore and seabed) could exist at common law. Recently the Herald referred to that decision as "astounding" and many readers will infer that the decision was a judicial aberration. The inference would be wrong.

As Michael Cullen has acknowledged in his 2005 Michael King Memorial Lecture (and elsewhere), that decision was correct... Maori claims to sea land are not based on the Treaty of Waitangi but on the common law that colonisation brought... [C]ustomary title is a species of legal property and should not be taken by Parliament without full compensation determined by an independent authority.
In my estimation, property should not be taken at all -- full stop -- and on that I part company with the good professor; but on his point that the claims were made on a common law basis he is entirely correct.

The purpose of the Foreshore and Seabed Act was to remove the opportunity to prove ownership of unowned tracts under a common law process. This is a right should not have been taken away. The Act essentially nationalised whatever property rights existed in foreshore and seabed, extinguishing forever the possibility of title to any part of them being recognised.

Turia's Bill would do us all a favour, and return that same common law right -- to prove ownership on a common law basis -- to all of us.

Brookfield expresses surprise that "it is conservative members of the National Party caucus who are reportedly against allowing Turia's Bill to go to a select committee," suggesting that "property rights usually have the strong support of conservatives."
There is material here, surely, that could properly be considered by a select committee. Radicals, liberals, and the conservative defenders of property rights alike should agree on that.
He must be thinking of some other conservatives. He seems to forget it was this lot who introduced the Resource Management Act.

UPDATE: Questioned on this editorial in Parliament today, Cullen argued that despite the Foreshore and Seabed Act, anyone has right to go to High Court, and the Court says so the Crown must enter into "negotiations." Even if correct, it shouldn't need me to point out you the difference between this arrangement, and secure property rights.

LINKS: Time for a rethink on customary title - Emeritus Professor Jock Brookfield, NZ Herald
A debate on taking property for the public good - Not PC

RELATED: Property Rights, Politics-NZ, Common Law, Politics-Maori Party


  1. In terms of social psychology, the failure of the conservative National party to support Turia et al's claims of Maori custom over the seabed and foreshore is unsurprising: conservatives like National party voters tend to be racist.

    Denying 'Moori' customary title over 'our beaches' is an instance of what psychologists call covert racism - denying a minority (like Maori) a benefit, however small, for irrational reasons.

    The conservative argument was, if you remember, "they can't take our beaches", nevermind the fact that the debate concerned customary seafood collection rights, not ownership of beaches.

    Reason #194 not to vote National ...

  2. The problem is Turia is not aiming at gathering a few pipis...but at a racist grab of the property rights and entire fish/aqua farm industry!
    We know this because she constantly tells us so..and got voted into parliament by those racists who think they will get some of the action simply because they are brown!

    The problem is The seabed and foreshore act did almost exactly the same thing, but enriched/empowered the state itself via nationalisation.
    So in reality Turia and Clark are both the enemies of all Kiwis.
    The solution is to constitutionally ban both Racist favouritism and state ownership of property!
    Dump the treaty!
    Sack the Waitangi tribunal and all racist state institutions including the Maori seats and electoral roll.
    Recognise all private property that can be clearly established by common law principles.
    …and put the rest (Land and sea) in a lucky dip in which every person irrespective of race who is on the electoral roll in the draw!
    Ie privatise the lot!
    End this B.S once and for all!
    Tim Wikiriwhi


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