Using flawed reasoning to give 44km of the Bay of Plenty coastal and marine area to a few private individuals and groups is not what is expected of the High Court of New Zealand.
In a judgement released at the weekend, the High Court granted several groups of the Whakatohea tribe a new form of property right, known as customary marine title, to an area between Whakatane and Opotiki.
The test, under the Marine and Coastal Area Act 2011, to qualify for ownership is to demonstrate uninterrupted exclusive occupation since 1840. Yet these groups had their land confiscated in 1863 for fighting against the Crown. Surely land confiscation would interrupt occupation and end exclusivity?
The judge used the flimsy argument that confiscation of lands would not have severed connection with the marine area.
This decision is the latest in a long line of official blunders that has made the vast marine and coastal area vulnerable to claims for ownership by scattered groups and individuals when it was always understood to be for the benefit of every New Zealander.