Te Pāti Māori warns of 'uprising of hikoi of all hikois' if incoming Government responds to landmark foreshore, seabed decision

The foreshore and seabed debate is threatening to rear its head again following a landmark Court of Appeal decision which will make it easier for Māori to make claims to the coastline.

Incoming Prime Minister Christopher Luxon has promised the next Government will respond to the decision. But Te Pāti Māori says that would spark the hikoi of all hikois.

The forshore and seabed debate is a political powder keg. It was sparked when the then-Labour-led Government declared the Crown owned the coastlines, one of, if not the, most controversial laws of its time.

The law was repealed by Sir John Key's National-led Government. Its replacement declared no one owns the foreshore and seabed and allows Māori to apply for customary titles and rights.

"Tangata whenua have rights and interests and have a critical role in preserving our environment for future generations," said Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer.

Under that law, there were two tough tests of proving tikanga - one being that claimants exclusively used and occupied the land since 1840.

But last month, in a split decision, the Court of Appeal produced a more nuanced reading of the law which will effectively lower the second test.

Wellington lawyer and former ACT MP Stephen Franks says with more than 200 claimants the decision could mean most of New Zealand's coastline is subject to claims.

"The court has now said, even though those words would knock out most claims, we don't think that's the right spirit, so we are not going to treat them as if they don't say what they say," he said.  

Ngarewa-Packer said it's "fearmongering".

"They are simply insecure and they are out of touch and have absolutely no relationship with any tangata whenua," she said.  

Franks said he was "surprised she didn't add that I was racist as well".  

Franks wants the next Government to go back to the controversial Foreshore and Seabed Act.

"There will be a whole lot of huffing and puffing but where we are now is on a path to really destructive relationships," he said.  

Luxon said he thinks that will be a topic of conversation for his Government.  

ACT Party leader David Seymour said the court's interpretation is "totally at odds with what a lot of people thought the law said".  

But Te Pāti Māori said if the next Government wants to touch the law, they're going to have to deal with the consequences.

"It will have the uprising of the hikoi of all hikois," said Ngarewa-Packer.

A possible political powder keg in waiting.