Story: New Zealand identity

Debate about the foreshore and seabed

In 2003 the Court of Appeal ruled that the Māori Land Court had jurisdiction to determine whether or not the foreshore and seabed of New Zealand had the status of Māori customary land. This inspired heated public debate, revealing that both Māori and Pākehā had strong feelings about the cultural importance of the foreshore. The government's response was a new law, the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004, which vested ownership in the Crown but allowed Māori to claim customary rights where these had been in continual use since 1840.  Many Māori believed this did not recognise their mana over the foreshore. There was protest, and the National Party-led government elected in 2008, which included members of the Māori Party, proposed a new law to strengthen Māori claims to mana. This television clip shows the passion with which many Māori leaders treated the issue as they debated the provisions of the drafted law in March 2010.

The translation is: 

Hauata Paama: We, Māori, agree with the third proposition that the mana of the foreshore should come under all iwi. We, Māori, have completed our deliberations on how to achieve this. Those deliberations have been completed.

Sonny Tau: Mana motuhake should be returned to the Māori people so their mana may rest on the foreshore, particularly that relating to seafood harvest areas and other relevant places.

Tame Te Rangi: The part that is being discussed here allows for individual iwi to make representations about the customs relating to the foreshore within their tribal area.

A number of Māori still believe that the rights of Māori over the foreshore have not yet been lost.

Koro Wetere: When was the authority over the sea taken from Māori? Those areas relating to us, when were they taken? Who gave it away?

There are continuing objections to some of the words and decisions being made by the government. Some simply refuse to accept them.

Te Wanoa Walters: Some of them believe that it will be lost without this. Some do not have the required depths of knowledge in this area about which they speak.

One month has been allowed for the public to make submissions on this.

Sonny Tau: I am aware that the reason for it being like this is the government doesn't want to bring it to the table in an election year. 

That may be correct as the minister's wish is to pass legislation within the House before the end of this year.

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How to cite this page:

Fiona Barker, 'New Zealand identity - The land', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/video/34605/debate-about-the-foreshore-and-seabed (accessed 18 November 2018)

Story by Fiona Barker, published 20 Jun 2012