• Coastal Coalition Unsure About Foreshore {and Seabed}

last modified August 17, 2012 by strypey

by Danyl Strype

Danyl Strype lifts the veil of an ACT front-group presenting itself an a coalition of concerned citizens concerned about public access to the beach.

While staying in Karamea recently, I came across a leaflet on a community noticeboard outside the post office promoting a group called the Coastal Coalition (1). According to the leaflet, the CC "feel strongly that the Foreshore & Seabed (F&S) should stay in Crown ownership".

As well as raising the familiar lie that the F&S ownership debate is about whether people can have picnics on the beach, the leaflet carefully ignores the obvious fact: since tangata whenua never sold the foreshore and seabed to the Crown, it has no legitimate claim to own it in the first place. CC claim that:

"The foreshore and seabed were vested in the Crown when New Zealand adopted British common law in the 1800s."

Obviously tangata whenua disagree, and the Court of Appeal took their side in 2003, opening up the possibility that whānau, hapū, and iwi could take claims to the Māori Land Court to have their ownership of specific areas recognised. The Labour-led government reacted with legislation in 2004 claiming Crown ownership of the whole lot (except a few private beaches held under freehold title by pākeha), denying tangata whenua their day in court. So much for 'one law for all'.

National's agreement with the Māori Party to acknowledges the injustice of this confiscation, and places the foreshore and seabed in the 'public domain'. This is a more just outcome that I expected from a government that does not need the Māori Party's votes to govern, and refused to give the same acknowledgement to Tuhoe of their ownership of the Urewera. It would be more just if extended to the private beaches (one law for all?), but I would honestly eat my hat if I saw this happen.

Returning to the CC, they clearly believe that the Crown can and should assert its ownership of the F&S. Why would they want this?

A quick investigation into some of the players behind the CC reveals a rogues gallery of pro-business lobbyists. Their website is hosted by the NZ Centre for Political Research (NZCPR), a think tank founded by former ACT Party MP Muriel Newman. As well as NZCPR, the list of "Coalition Supporters" on the website includes the Auckland and Northland Chambers of Commerce.

Labour's assertion of Crown control of F&S was followed by a rash of plans for seabed mining (7). Under a National/ ACT government Crown ownership ensures easy access to oil, gold, iron and a range of other resources for multinational mining companies. Considering this, it's hard not to see the hyprocrisy in CC's rallying cry that:

"It is essential that the local organisations in your community are briefed on the government's plans to effectively privatise the foreshore and seabed into Maori ownership..."

..instead of being effectively privatised by the multinational mining and  companies.

There are members of the coalition who may have more sincere concerns about public access to the ocean and rivers. These include a bunch of boating clubs, and charter boat operators, and the Outdoor Recreation Associations of NZ (2), which includes associations of 4-wheel drivers, hunters, and recreational anglers (3). Their secretary Hugh Barr is one of the coalition's Coordinators, as is Kevin Moratti, who attended a Ministry of Fisheries meeting in 2007 for the 'Taranaki Recreational Fishers Association' (6). The motives of Natural Energy, a wind and water turbine retailer in Tauranga, and of Grey Power president Les Howard, in being part of the coalition are unclear at this point.

Clearly any campaign around this needs to reveal the gulf between the state-corporate motivations behind having the F&S in Crown ownership (similar to those of other public-private-partnerships), and the motivations of outdoor recreation enthusiasts. It needs to point out to the outdoors types that their interests are better served by building mutually respectful relationships with whānau, hapū, and iwi and helping them resist confiscation by either the Crown or iwi corporations, which as we've seen in the case of the Mohikinui Dam (9), can be bought off by developers, often against the wishes of whānau and hapū.

(1) http://www.nzcpr.com/CoastalCoalition.htm

(2) http://www.wildrivers.org.nz/supporter/council-outdoor-recreation-associations-new-zealand(3) It also includes Public Access NZ (4), which was founded by writers Bruce Mason and Brian Turner in 1992. Mason resigned in 2005 and set up Recreation Access NZ (5), and PANZ seems to be defunct.

(4) http://www.publicaccessnewzealand.com/

(5) http://www.recreationaccess.org.nz/

(6) http://www.fish.govt.nz/en-nz/Recreational/Recreational+Forums/Lower+Nor...

(7) http://www.indymedia.org.nz/article/73764/rio-tinto-looms-over-te-ika-maui

(8) http://www.odt.co.nz/news/national/100819/west-coast-iwi-paid-mokihinui-dam-deal


Originally published on Aotearoa.Indymedia.org (July, 2010)


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