Near Thames, Māori built fishing structures on the foreshore. In the 1870s when they realised that gold might be found on the seabed and foreshore, they appealed to the Native Land Court to protect their rights. In the Kauwaeranga decision, Chief Judge Francis Dart Fenton did not dispute the evidence of prolonged Māori use of the tidal flats for fishing, but he concluded that: ‘I cannot contemplate without uneasiness the evil consequences which might ensue from judicially declaring that the soil of the foreshore of the colony will be vested absolutely in the natives, if they can prove certain acts of ownership.’ He did, however, recognise an exclusive fishing right. But when Māori prepared further claims to lands below the sea in the Coromandel, legislation was passed in 1872 preventing the Native Land Court from hearing claims to land below the high water mark in the Auckland province.
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