29 Nov 2010

South Island iwi opposed to new foreshore bill

10:50 pm on 29 November 2010

South Island Maori have attacked a planned new law on the foreshore and seabed, saying it ignores their customary rights.

Strong opposition by iwi to the Marine and Coastal Area Bill has been matched by criticism from non-Maori who say the new law is racist.

A Maori Affairs select committee hearing on the new bill was held in Blenheim on Monday.

Ngati Tama chairman Fred Te Miha says while the bill allows the opportunity for Maori to obtain customary rights, few iwi will be able to prove uninterrupted occupancy.

Businessman Peter Talley, the chairman of the Talleys Group, supports a repeal of the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

However, he says the replacement bill is unclear, far too complicated and could lead to more litigation as well as divisiveness.

Mr Talley says he is also concerned about the prospect of closed-door customary rights negotiations between Maori and the Government.

A former mayor of Marlborough, Tom Harrison, told the committee the bill is racist because it gives Maori extra rights, including the right to veto any development in areas to which they gain customary rights.