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Published: 2003-09-26 00:00:00

Environment Waikato wants a thorough definition of Maori customary rights to the foreshore and seabed.

The Council has prepared an answer to the Government discussion paper which asked for responses on specific questions about how the proposals would be delivered. But Councillors requested that there be clarity about the content and consequences of customary Maori rights.

Environment Waikato’s response says it is for the Government and Maori to work out the content of customary Maori rights. However any solution must take account of Maori claims, respect the right of public access to the coastal margin, foreshore and seabed and be clear and capable of local effective administration.

It says the RMA does not deal with allocation and is not the place to resolve issues of rights or title. Customary rights should not be left for ‘consultation’ or be part of the balancing of interests. Public access to the coastal margin should be dealt with separately from customary rights, it says.

In principle the Council agrees that the foreshore and seabed should not be privately owned. Access, regulation, protection and certainty are appropriate principles, although ‘protection’ is somewhat paternalistic, it says. It has no preference between ‘public domain’ and Crown ownership because regional council management of the Coastal Marine Area do not depend on ownership. However ownership better conveys the idea that private use of public space was not free.

Some legitimate activities require exclusivity and restrictions on public access and the Government should look into payment for compensation for private use of the CMA, it says.

Any outcome from the current debate must have broad acceptance from Maori and general community, and be clear. Regional councils require certainty so they knew what was required of them if the Government’s proposals were to be implemented at a regional level.

Cr Evan Penny said while the Council was not opposed to the proposals the difficulty was that it needed to know what customary rights were.