"The release of official documents under the Official Information Act that show the public is overwhelmingly opposed to the repeal of the 2004 Foreshore and Seabed Act, show that John Key has no mandate to push ahead with his controversial Marine and Coastal Area Bill", Dr Hugh Barr Spokesman for the Coastal Coalition said today.
"According to a summary of submissions on the government's review, 77 percent of submitters were opposed to the repeal of Crown ownership, and an astonishing 91 percent opposed the government's whole approach!"
"The Coastal Coalition is so concerned about John Key bulldozing through this controversial bill to repeal Crown ownership of the foreshore and seabed by the end of summer - replacing it with a law that will allow the effective privatisation of the coast to Maori tribal groups - that we have placed a half-page advertisement in the New Zealand Herald today. This is part of our continuing public information campaign to improve public awareness of the issue.
"This public information campaign has been funded by our volunteers who want New Zealanders to better understand the huge changes that the government is proposing to introduce. We are encouraging all concerned citizens to speak up about the Bill and send in a submission to the Select Committee by 19 November", Dr Barr said.
"The ads are designed to counter the propaganda and put-downs the government is using to hide the fact that John Key is about to carve up the coast - currently held by the Crown on behalf of all New Zealanders - for something he values more: Maori Party votes.
"If he hadn't done a deal with the Maori Party after the election, there is no way on earth that this Bill to privatise the coast to corporate iwi would be in front of Parliament", Dr Barr said.
"The misinformation that is going on over the Bill is astounding! The Bill as drafted doesn't prohibit tribes charging for access. That is what the Maori Party wanted and that is why National has dropped the prohibition on charging that is found in the present law. "And if iwi slap on a 'wahi tapu' then the public can be totally banned from these areas and hit with a fine up to $5,000. In stark contrast, there is a much more open and balanced process in Labour's 2004 Act for investigating wahi tapu, and public access is not necessarily banned. "Iwi owners will be able to exploit the coastal marine environment by establishing marine farms, mining operations, and other major developments without the normal safeguards that protect the public interest at present. That means that communities that have fought such proposals in the past could well have them imposed in the future by iwi. In addition, the Bill allows iwi to force implementation of their coastal plans on local and central government. "Furthermore, it is just wrong that the allocation of the coastline to iwi tribal authorities will be through a political process, called "recognition by agreement" involving secret negotiation with Ministers, rather than through a legal process in an open court of law. As the Bill stands, billions of dollars of public assets will be allocated to private interests, with no public safeguards at all. "Claims by John Key, that 'nothing much will change' as a result of his Bill do not stack up. The Attorney General himself has estimated that at least 2,000 km of the coast will be privatised in the first instance.
"But that is not where it will end as the Maori Party has already indicated that they will not stop until the whole of New Zealand's coast is in Maori Title. That will relegate non-iwi Kiwis to the status of second class citizens in their own land.
"The Coastal Coalition is a broad-based grassroots movement of thousands of people who believe the foreshore and seabed is the birthright and common heritage of all New Zealanders and should stay in Crown ownership. That's what we are fighting for", Dr Barr said.
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