Thomas H Bennion Barrister & Solicitor
Farhana Khan Staff Solicitor
Phone +64-4-473 5755 - Fax +64-4-473 5751
Making Sense of the Foreshore and Seabed
A special publication of the Māori Law Review
By Tom Bennion, Malcolm Birdling and Rebecca Paton
The Court of Appeal's landmark "foreshore and seabed decision", delivered on 19 June 2003, sparked one of the biggest political and legal debates in New Zealand's recent history. The decision gave the green light to Maori seeking to bring claims to the foreshore and seabed of the Marlborough Sounds in the Maori Land Court. Within a matter of days the Government announced its intention to legislate to reassert Crown ownership of the foreshore and seabed and remove the Maori Land Court's jurisdiction to investigate Maori customary title over such areas.
The Government's subsequent actions sparked a national debate as to whether the foreshore and seabed issue should be left to the Courts or Parliament. A variety of responses followed the Government's final decision to introduce legislation reasserting Crown ownership of the foreshore and seabed. Don Brash's Orewa Speech, an urgent Waitangi Tribunal inquiry, a hikoi against the introduction of "confiscatory legislation", and the resignation of government Minister Tariana Turia all cast a shadow over the first reading of the resulting legislation - the Foreshore and Seabed Bill.
While the media has dutifully reported and analysed the collateral issues which the debate has raised there has been surprisingly little analysis of the legal issues at the centre of the controversy. This book is an attempt to remedy this. It is an introductory guide to the Court of Appeal's decision, the Waitangi Tribunal's report on the Government policy and the Foreshore and Seabed Bill (as introduced). It provides a summary and commentary of the human rights implications of the Government's proposed legislation.
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