The Waitangi Tribunal is currently inquiring into whether the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011, and associated Crown acts and policy regarding te takutai moana, are inconsistent with the Treaty of Waitangi.

The Tribunal is considering the extent to which Māori customary rights holders in te takutai moana are protected by the 2011 legislation and Crown policy. The inquiry is part of the Tribunal’s kaupapa inquiry programme which is hearing claims on nationally significant issues which affect Māori across Aotearoa.

This is the latest challenge to the Crown regarding regulation of te takutai moana / the foreshore and seabed.

The 2011 Act replaced the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004, which many will recall was the Crown’s response to the Court of Appeal’s 2003 Ngati Apa ruling that the Māori Land Court could hear claims from Māori that they retained customary ownership of areas of te takutai moana.

The 2004 Act vested legal ownership of the foreshore and seabed (where not already subject to private ownership) in the Crown, and removed the Māori Land Court’s jurisdiction to hear applications relating to the foreshore and seabed.  

While the Marine and Coastal (Takutai Moana) Act 2011 does not give ownership of te takutai moana to the Crown (it provides that neither the Crown nor any person owns the common marine and coastal area), it gives Māori limited scope to gain recognition of their customary interests in te takutai moana, and set a cut-off date for claims under the Act, of April 2017.

The Tribunal’s hearings are ongoing.