Demystifying the Foreshore and Seabed:  A Breakdown of the Major Conceptual Issues and Beyond

By Michelle Moetuturi Ormsby
University of Waikato Law School
On 19 June 2003 the Court of Appeal (CA) released its decision on the jurisdiction of the Maori Land Court to investigate title to the foreshore and seabed of the Marlborough Sounds.1  Since then, the judgment has held the media and political spotlight and has cast a cloak of mystery for the general public over the foreshore and seabed issue with propaganda and irresponsible reporting.
The CA held that the Maori Land Court has jurisdiction to determine the status of the foreshore and seabed under the Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993 and that its 1963 decision In Re Ninety Mile Beach2 can no longer be considered as good law.
Using the Ngati Apa case this paper traces the legal journey undertaken by Maori to validate Maori ownership of the foreshore and seabed of Aotearoa/New Zealand.  The whole issue is a fertile ground for . the jurisprudential aspects of the laws used for legal decisions made on the ownership rights for foreshore and seabed.  This issue brings forth the need to reform a system or body of laws in order to include the rights of Maori.
A way of doing so is to demystify or untangle the facts and present the korero in plain language.  In time future generation will ensure that the foreshore and seabed will belong to the rightful Maori owners.

1 Ngaati Apa, Ngaati Koata, Ngaati Kuia, Ngaati Rarua, Ngaati Tama, Ngaati Toa and Rangitane and Anor v The Attorney-General And Ors CA 173/01 [19 June 2003].
2 [1963] NZLR 461.


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