A treasured part of our kiwi lifestyle is at risk

Us Kiwis love this country.

For many of us, the relationship we have with the land, the sea, and the beaches goes back generations. They are more than just “a place”, they are part of who we are.

But now, a treasured part of our Kiwi lifestyle is at risk.

In 2011, the existing Foreshore and Seabed legislation was replaced by the Marine and Coastal Area Act.

The legislation is available here

Now, some groups, based on their ancestry, can apply to have special rights to certain areas of the coastline.

These are called “protected customary rights”, and a new property right called “customary marine title”.

Right now, there are nearly 600 claims for these rights… and they cover every single inch of the New Zealand coastline - from the highest tide mark to 12 nautical miles or 22k’s out to sea - all harbours and estuaries, the soil and rock beneath, and the air space above.

If a group’s claim under this Act is successful, they have rights that no one else has.

If a group gets Customary Marine Title to a particular area...

  • they get to own many of the minerals, section 83(2) “A customary marine title group has, and may exercise, ownership of minerals (other than petroleum, gold, silver, and uranium existing in their natural condition) that are within the customary marine title area of that group.
  • they get to say yes or no to activities that need resource consents or permits in the area, Section 66 (2) “A customary marine title group may give or decline permission, on any grounds, for an activity to which an RMA permission right applies”.
  • they get to tell DOC yes or no to certain conservation activities, 71 (1) A conservation permission right enables a customary marine title group to give or decline permission, on any grounds, for the Minister of Conservation or the Director-General, as the case requires, to proceed to consider an application or proposal for a conservation activity specified in subsection (3).

71 (3)The conservation activities to which a conservation permission right applies are activities wholly or partly within the relevant customary marine title area and for which—

  • an application is made under section 5 of the Marine Reserves Act 1971 to declare or extend a marine reserve:
  • a proposal is made under the enactments relevant to a conservation protected area to declare or extend a conservation protected area:
  • an application for a concession is made.

72 Obligation to refer proposals for conservation activity if conservation permission right applies

(1) The Minister of Conservation or Director-General, as the case requires,—

  • must refer an application or a proposal for a conservation activity to the relevant customary marine title group for its consideration, unless the person making the proposal has already sought permission from the customary marine title group; and
  • must not proceed to consider the application or proposal until the written permission of the group for the proposed activity is received by the Minister or Director-General; and
  • must not approve an application or a proposal except to the extent that any permission given by the customary marine title group covers the application or proposal.

73 3(b) there is no right of appeal against the decision of a customary marine title group in the exercise of its conservation permission right.

they get to stop people accessing areas designated “wahi tapu”, with trespassers fined up to $5000.

81 (2) Every person commits an offence who intentionally fails to comply with a prohibition or restriction notified for that wāhi tapu or wāhi tapu area, and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $5,000.

The thing is, New Zealand has resource management controls in place to make sure our resources are used sensibly and carefully.

But if a group is granted protected customary rights, it means they’ll be able to take the resources of the coastal area, and use them for their own purposes - including commercial use.

52(4) A protected customary rights group may do any of the following:

  • delegate or transfer the rights conferred by a protected customary rights order or an agreement in accordance with tikanga:
  • derive a commercial benefit from exercising its protected customary rights, except in relation to the exercise of—
  • (i) a non-commercial aquaculture activity; or

    a non-commercial fishery activity that is not a right or interest subject to the declarations in section 10 of the Treaty of Waitangi (Fisheries Claims) Settlement Act 1992:

    Many of the claims that’ve been lodged say that they want to take resources such as sand, shingle and rocks.


    • CIV 2017-485-228
    • CIV 2017-404-546
    • CIV 2017-404-554
    • CIV 2017-404-573
    • CIV 2017-485-515

Yep, they will have the right to exploit our beaches…in some cases without resource consent.

52 Scope and effect of protected customary rights

(1) A protected customary right may be exercised under a protected customary rights order or an agreement without a resource consent, despite any prohibition, restriction, or imposition that would otherwise apply in or under sections 12 to 17 of the Resource Management Act 1991.

Read Andrew Little's Letter


Others are claiming customary marine title to islands, rocks, and reefs. Some have even included the area around Poor Knights in their claim, despite this being a marine reserve.

  • CIV 2017-404-566
  • CIV 2017-404-579
  • CIV 2017-404-555
  • CIV 2017-485-228
  • CIV 2017-404-554
  • CIV 2017-485-515

Now, giving away these rights in our coastal areas to certain groups....... groups that don’t represent all of us - well, that’s just not right. What if the decisions they make are bad for the environment? Who’s going to be accountable?

To find out more about this legislation, and what you can do to help counter the claims, visit www.democracyaction.org.nz