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Govt clears decks pre-Easter on foreshore and seabed, ECan, and CRIs

Monday 29th March 2010

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The government's preferred solution for resolving the foreshore and seabed issue will be issued as a discussion document before Easter, along with decisions on whether to sack the regional councillors on the board of Environment Canterbury, Prime Minister John Key said today.

Speaking after Cabinet, Key said the government would allow four weeks for consultation on the foreshore and seabed document, which follows a ministerial review last year.  Legislation to fix the vexed issue remains targeted for introduction to Parliament in August.

Repeal of the previous government's 2004 Foreshore and Seabed Act is part of the coalition agreement between the National and Maori parties, but exactly what form the government is proposing for resolving the issue remains unclear.  Indications from Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson suggest a pan-Maori approach to resolving the issue is not favoured, and that capacity for local iwi solutions to local issues will be possible.

The Maori Party "seems happy with progress", said Key, who promised a "thoughtful" document which would offer a "credible way forward".  The issue has polarised because of its perceived threat to rights of access to the foreshore for non-Maori, and Maori anger over the theft of entitlements relating to foreshore and seabed created by the previous government's legislation.

Meanwhile, Key said Cabinet had made decisions relating to the future of Environment Canterbury at Cabinet today, and these would be announced by the environment and local government ministers Nick Smith and Rodney Hide "in the next few days".


A review led by former National Cabinet Minister Wyatt Creech recommended sacking theECan councillors, replacing them with a commissioner, and the creation of a new special water authority to deal with water allocation and storage issues in the stressed catchment.

Key also announced today that the government would implement all of the key recommendations of the Crown Research Institute taskforce, including a greater proportion of non-contestable funding, and a move to more meaningful measures of Crown science contributions to national outcomes.  This includes a "financial viability" test rather than a commercial return test for the CRIs' financial performance.

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