Discriminatory public domain option is “no solution” say Catholic Bishops

5 May 2010 | JUSTICE

New Zealand’s Catholic Bishops say the government’s preferred option for resolving ownership of the foreshore and seabed duplicates the discrimination of the 2004 Foreshore and Seabed Act.

A New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference (NZCBC) statement on the foreshore and seabed comments on the government proposal to place most foreshore and seabed in a new category called “public domain” land - but continuing to exempt 12,499 existing private property titles.  This would be discriminatory as it would continue to treat Maori customary property rights differently to other property rights, says the statement.

Bishop Barry Jones of Christchurch says, “Removing formal ownership from the foreshore and seabed could be a radical act for the common good - but only if all claims to property in the foreshore and seabed were treated in the same way. The government does not propose to do that.”

The bishops’ statement is included in a joint submission to the government Consultation process with Te Runanga o Te Hahi Katorika Ki Aotearoa and the NZCBC’s social justice agency Caritas.  The joint submission welcomes positive aspects to the government’s proposals, such as repeal of the 2004 Foreshore and Seabed Act; restoration of customary rights extinguished by the Act; and renewed access to the courts to test claims to customary title.

However, the submitters say they are deeply concerned by indications the government is seeking mere endorsement of its preferred option rather than genuine dialogue and consultation.

“We and other Church groups have called consistently for negotiated solutions that recognise both customary title, kaitiakitanga and public access to beaches - it’s part of the ‘longer conversation’ proposed by the Waitangi Tribunal in 2004,” says Danny Karatea-Goddard, Treasurer of Te Runanga o Te Hahi Katorika Ki Aotearoa.

Lisa Beech, Research and Advocacy Coordinator for Caritas, says that the common good requires that rights of individuals and groups are recognised within the context of the wellbeing of the whole community.

“This does not involve overriding the rights of one group in order to satisfy the preferences of another, but rather organising society so all people are able to exercise their rights and responsibilities,” she says. “The current consultation process is inadequate both in terms of time and questions.”

Bishop Barry Jones says, “Resolution of this issue deserves more than imposed solutions.  We are confident that an outcome can be found that recognises both customary title and the public access to coastal areas that all New Zealanders value. Let us not cut the conversation short.”

Click here to read statement

To arrange interviews contact: 

Angela Pyke
Communications Adviser
New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference
apyke@nzcbc.org.nz
Tel 04 496 1725, Mob 021 611 052