Friday, 8 April 2005

A Brash dismissal of Maori rights?

No Right Turn points out this morning that Don Brash denies that pre-European Maori possessed property rights.

He’s right, he does. Is that racism? No it isn’t. Is it an accurate view? I give my own view on that here. What’s really interesting is that once again the question comes down to an understanding of property rights, and in this case of how one acquires rights in property.

What’s curious is that Don Brash fails to understand this question himself. That is, on the question of who should own the Foreshore and Seabed he is just dead wrong, and he’s wrong because his thinking on this reflects a collectivist false dichotomy, ie., that 'The Foreshore and Seabed' should either be owned by Maori, or 'The Foreshore and Seabed' should be owned by “all New Zealanders.”

But this is just dead wrong - as some good friends of mine argue in detail here. New Zealanders – individual NZers, not all NZers – should own the rights in property over which they can rightfully make a claim that the property is theirs. (That is a basic common law right - or at least is was until buried by stature and forgotten about by lawyers. See prescription, doctrine of in any book of torts.)

Many of those people who can claim such rights in property are of course Maori, and the Land Court process that Mistress Helen spiked was a good example of how that process should be effected. That process is of course colour-blind, or at least it should be. The same common law process is (or should be) available to those claiming easement rights through or to beaches or seashore, and sorting out such rights is (or should be) one of the prime jobs of any government. That both this Government and the National opposition favour nationalisation instead of common law recognition of property rights is an unfortunate irony, and an unjust one.

So on this issue The Don is part right, and part wrong. To paraphrase the National Party’s infamous Dancing Cossacks ad from 1972, “New Zealand’s foreshore and seabed owned by all New Zealanders? You know what that’s called!” [Enter Cossacks, stage left.]

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