22 Mar 2011

Foreshore protesters reach Parliament

3:18 pm on 22 March 2011

At least 300 people marched on Parliament on Tuesday in opposition to the Marine and Coastal Area Bill.

The bill replaces the controversial 2004 Foreshore and Seabed Act and restores the right of Maori iwi and hapu to seek customary title through the courts.

The protest hikoi began at Cape Reinga in the Far North about a week ago.

Demonstrators waved flags, including the Tino Rangatiratanga ensign, and were greeted by Te Tai Tokerau independent MP Hone Harawira while other MPs looked on.

Attorney-General Chris Finlayson says his message to protesters is that the Coastal and Marine Area Bill does represent progress for Maori and that there is "broad unanimity" over the repeal of the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

Mr Finlayson did not address the crowd on Tuesday, but said afterwards that the hikoi will not make any difference to the passage of the bill, which is expected to have its third and final reading later this week.

Mr Finlayson says Prime Minister John Key has made it clear the issue will not be revisited by a National Government once the bill has passed.

Protesters wrapped copies of both pieces of legislation into a bundle, which they referred to as a coffin, and placed it in front of a group of MPs from National, Labour, the Greens and the Maori Party on Tuesday.

The bundle was picked up by National Party list MP Tau Henare, who joked that he would put it in the bin. However, Mr Henare says he did not mean it, and the package is on his desk.