Court of Appeal – a hollow victory for the Landowners Coalition

Firstly, a big thank you to our many members who supported the Landowners Coalition during what has been a long and tortuous legal process. We have been engaged in the process for 12 years now.

As you will recall, the LoC registered as an interested party in some 202 cases taken by iwi/hapu in the High Court to gain Customary Marine Title to the foreshore and seabed.

We actively participated in the first of these cases to come before the Court – the Edwards claim for an area around Opotiki. Our aim was to ensure the Courts applied the law as Parliament had intended – or more to the point, how the National Party said it would be applied when responding to public submissions.

The High Court applied a very enabling pro tikanga interpretation of the law so we appealed it to the Court of Appeal – essentially on the grounds that law should be taken literally, rather than interpreted through a tikanga lense.

Although the Court of Appeal did not uphold the granting of two customary titles due to a lack of evidence (and sent these back to the High Court to rehear), it upheld the points of law and the High Court’s application of tikanga.

The effect is that the door is now wide open for Maori interests to gain customary title to the foreshore and seabed – virtually as of right. Declining title will be the exception. This is completely the opposite of what Chris Finlayson assured the public in 2012 would be the effect; saying that no more than 10% of the coast would meet the customary title test.

We are of course disappointed with the Court of Appeal decision. We feel it is fundamentally flawed and are yet to decide what to do next. We are also alarmed at the extent to which tikanga has become embedded within our law, largely without any mandate from the public.

The only positive to come from the case is that we now know with certainty how the Courts will apply the Marine and Coastal Area Act.

Our view is National got this law badly wrong, and it needs to correct its error so the Act does what National said it would do.


Throughout this process, we have been working closely with the NZ Centre for Political Research. Muriel Newman has produced an excellent summary of the case. Here >>>