Maori and the Sea

We have heard a lot of talk in the last six years about the foreshore and seabed. The foreshore is the beach up to the high tide mark. The seabed is the ocean as far as New Zealand’s limit, 200 miles out to sea. This is the part of the ocean which New Zealand controls for fishing and for oil and gas. It is ours and any country which wants to fish in our part of the ocean needs our permission and has to pay for the rights.

The Treaty of Waitangi guaranteed Maori their traditional places for fishing, including beaches. However, after 1840, many Maori iwi (tribes) lost these places, mostly because the land was sold to European settlers.

In 2004, the local Maori in Marlborough in the North East of the South Island, wanted to go to court to find out if they had the right to own to the foreshore and seabed in that area. Immediately, the Prime Minister at that time, Helen Clark, said that all coast and sea belonged to the government, and local Maori could not take a case to court. Maori throughout New Zealand were extremely angry. Soon this led to a new party, the Maori Party, who wanted to make sure that Maori had the right to own the foreshore and seabed in their area or at least to take this matter to court.

The Prime Minister, John Key, needs to keep the Maori Party happy but he also needs to keep his own party members happy. His answer was that all foreshore and seabed would belong to nobody. It would be public. However, John Key said that any local Maori iwi who could show they had customary rights to own that area, could go to the High Court. They would need to show that their iwi had owned the area, continuously, since the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. At the moment, the Maori Party has accepted this.

Is it possible for non-Maori to understand how Maori feel about the foreshore and seabed?
What is the importance of the Maori party in the government?

Leave a Reply