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NZ coastal law should be repealed: review says

NZ coastal law should be repealed: review says

New Zealand should scrap a contentious 2004 law that angered indigenous Maori by making the nation's coastline public property, a government review board said Wednesday.
The Foreshore and Seabed Act failed to recognize Maori property rights as established by the courts and advanced the general interests of the public at the expense of the natives, a three-member government-appointed panel said in its report, urging the government to repeal the law.
In 2004, the then-center-left Labour government passed legislation nationalizing the coast to protect public access to beaches while granting Maori "customary use" of their ancestral areas for activities such as fishing and gathering shellfish.
Maori said the law contravened the 1840 treaty that made them citizens under British rule and guaranteed their land, fisheries, culture and language rights. More than 20,000 indigenous protesters marched on parliament to denounce the law as a "land grab" after it was implemented.
Maori, who make up 530,000 of New Zealand's 4.3 million people, are among the poorest, least healthy, worst educated and poorest housed. They also suffer high unemployment.
The review panel said the government should pass a new law that accommodates both the Maori and the public.
Customary coastal rights give Maori tribes the right to fish and gather seafood under traditional tribal rules that ensure the amount taken preserves species and is not used for commercial purposes.
Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples said Wednesday the review reflected widespread dissatisfaction with the law, adding there should be balance between customary rights and the interests of the wider public.
Attorney General Chris Finlayson said the government would make decisions on the future of the law by later next month.