13 Oct 2010

Government guarantees free access to foreshore, seabed

5:40 pm on 13 October 2010

The Government will amend new legislation to prevent fees being charged for access to the foreshore and seabed.

A select committee is considering the Marine and Coastal Areas Bill, which will replace the controversial Foreshore and Seabed Act.

Attorney-General Chris Finlayson told Parliament on Wednesday the amendment would apply to all New Zealanders equally and to all common coastal and marine areas, excluding those held in private title.

He says while the bill does not enable charging for public access, he is prepared to include an amendment to guarantee free access.

Mr Finlayson says the amendment is in keeping with the Government and Maori Party bottom line to guarantee public access.

He says it will also satisfy concerns of the ACT Party.

ACT is claiming victory, saying it pushed the Government on the issue, but the Maori Party says ACT is grandstanding.

ACT had been trumpeting what it calls a stunning policy win for new MP Hilary Calvert over legislation replacing the foreshore and seabed bill.

Labour MPs could withdraw support

The Labour Party says its Maori MPs may pull support for the legislation if ACT's amendment is adopted.

List MP Shane Jones says ACT's proposed amendment is sheer hypocrisy from a party that preaches one law for all.

"I think if Maori owners are singled out for special hostile treatment by ACT then I have my doubts whether or not the Maori MPs of Labour would be prepared to continue to back this bill."