Commission urges changes to reduce discrimination in marine and coastal law

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The Human Rights Commission has recommended four significant changes to the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill to reduce the discrimination issues that remain.

Chief Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan said, The bill goes some way to overcoming the injustices in the Foreshore and Seabed Act but there remain significant issues that have to be addressed if the law is to provide a just and durable solution.

Ms Noonan, with Commissioners Joris de Bres and Karen Johansen, was presenting the Commissions submission to the M?ori Affairs Select Committee today.

The first two recommendations from the Commission address issues of fairness and potential discrimination faced by any group seeking customary title.

1. Revise the high threshold of exclusive use and occupation without substantial interruptions since 1840 for those seeking customary title to be consistent with the flexibility exercised in the settlement of historical treaty claims.

2. Remove the requirement that those seeking customary title have to file their claim within six years or lose the right to make the claim

The Commission considers exclusive use a substantial barrier that ensures recognition of customary rights will be extremely difficult to obtain. It says those seeking customary title to marine and coastal areas face a similar situation to those making Treaty claims which do not depend on the high hurdle of exclusive and unbroken occupation. The Commission says customary title claims to the marine and coastal area should meet the same standard required of Treaty claims. The six year time limit effectively extinguishes any further acknowledgement of customary title at an arbitrary point in time, no matter how sound a later claim might prove to be, creating further cause for grievance.

3. Expand the common space. The common marine and coastal area is something in which all New Zealanders have interests, aside from the portion held in private hands. The Commission says the Government should be guided by the principle of expanding the common space to include conservation areas and private land when it becomes available.

4. Co-management. The Commission recommends that the bill be amended to better recognise the mana of iwi and hapu. This could be demonstrated by sharing governance and administration of the marine and coastal area between local iwi and hapu and local and central government.

The final two recommendations suggest a way forward in responding to the strongly held expectations about what should happen with common marine and coastal areas. The common area (the common space) will not, and cannot, be owned by anyone including the Crown. The Crown and public authorities are divested of any title held in that area. However the Minister of Conservation will be responsible for managing the area. The Commissions recommendation for a co-management arrangement reflects the ideals of the Treaty partnership and offers a firmer basis for a just and more durable solution.

For a copy of the submission, click here:

For media inquiries, Gilbert Wong, 09) 306 2660, Kat Ryan, 09) 375 8616

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