Beaches for Recreation – Petition Launched

Other than in time of war, the current challenge to Crown ownership of beaches, foreshore and seabed is undoubtedly the gravest threat to enjoyment of the outdoors that New Zealanders have ever had to face. ‘The beach’ is New Zealand’s most popular outdoor recreation setting – it is very much part of the national psyche.

This is a defining issue for the nation.

The following petition has been launched by Public Access New Zealand Inc. (PANZ) to provide a recreational users’ view of the current controversy over the ownership of New Zealand’s beaches, foreshore and seabed.

“That the House of Representatives pass legislation that clearly establishes inalienable, sole Crown title, ownership, and authority over New Zealand’s beaches, foreshore and seabed and guaranteed secure rights of recreation for all New Zealanders”

This is an opportunity to have your voice heard

There are two options for signing this petition

You can download a printable copy of the official petition here
You require Acrobat Reader to view and print the form. This is available free … 

There is room for up to ten signatories on each form. It is open to all New Zealanders.
Print it and ask your friends and fellow club members to sign.
Set up a petition booth at your local beach or shopping centre?
The original forms (not copies) must be returned before 31 October 2003 to –

Public Access New Zealand
RD 1
Omakau 9182
Central Otago
New Zealand

They will then be collated and presented to Parliament.


Alternatively you can sign an unofficial online petition instantly at:

There is room to record your comments if you wish.
Under Parliamentary rules online signatures cannot be officially submitted, but we intend having this tabled in the House as a printout.

Why citizen action?

A Court of Appeal decision on 19 June 2003 has opened the door to Maori freehold title being issued over foreshore, including beaches, and the seabed. For the last 160 years this has been assumed to be part of the public domain, owned by the Crown on every ones’ behalf. Currently there is no significant private ownership of foreshore or seabed. Crown action has been towards reclaiming ownership of those few areas privately owned.

The Court did not decide that Maori actually own or are entitled to ownership, only that any claims to customary use and title over particular areas are able to be heard before the Maori Land Court. If ownership or title were awarded this would be highly detrimental to New Zealanders as a whole, including Maori other than the new owners.

Government initially stated a firm position that legislative action will be taken reasserting the Crown’s ownership. However, despite the limited nature of the Court’s decision, Government is now in secret negotiation with Maori representatives and is busy concocting mechanisms to give Maori some form of ownership over ALL foreshore and seabed. This is while claiming that Crown ‘title’ will be preserved, as if ownership and title are materially different, and that public rights of use would be protected.

Unfortunately the reality is that whoever ‘owns’ or thinks they own or control beaches, etc., are likely at some time to exercise complete ownership rights no matter what legal semantics are employed. Title cannot be divided. It defies human nature to believe that private owners, occupiers, or ‘guardians’ are all the same and can be trusted to allow public access, for free, forever. The reality that access is prohibited or charged for over many (dry) private lands reinforces the necessity of the ‘wet lands’ never falling into private hands, Maori or otherwise.

Crown ownership has proved to provide the sole guarantee of public recreational use of beaches, etc., even in the historic absence of legal rights of recreation (for explanation of the absence of existing rights: see PANZ press releases).

The current challenge to Crown ownership must be over-ruled. Parliament has a right and a duty to all citizens to do so. Legal rights of recreation must be created, reinforced by assured Crown ownership. The latter provides the only certainty that all New Zealanders, irrespective of race, ethnicity, wealth or other privilege will be able to freely enjoy our beaches, foreshore and seabed.

There are now two ‘Beach’ petitions

The PANZ petition is different from that of the National Party’s ‘Beaches For All’ Petition , which reads-

“That the House of Representatives pass legislation that retains Crown title of New Zealand’s beaches, foreshore and seabed, protecting rights to these areas for all New Zealanders”

If you have already signed this there is nothing to stop you also signing our ‘Beaches for Recreation’ petition. Both petitions will be presented to Parliament. In presenting our petition PANZ should have an opportunity to speak on your behalf, presenting arguments that are free of party political agendas.

National’s ‘Beaches For All’ Petition is hosted by-


Why the ‘Beaches for Recreation’ petition is different

  • Our petition seeks complete Crown ownership and control. All forms of privatisation would be precluded by our wording of “title, ownership, and authority”. National’s petition implies this, but confines reference to “title”. However the New Zealand Government is creating an artificial distinction between ‘title’ and ‘ownership’, in preparation for giving away one or the other while pretending otherwise. All possible avenues allowing privatisation need to be covered by the petition.
  • Legislation expressly creating Crown ownership must be passed. National’s petition merely seeks to “retain” Crown title. However the Court of Appeal has thrown into doubt Crown ownership over all areas that have not been expressly granted for ports, etc. The Court observed that any legislative fix would need to make Parliament’s intention “crystal clear”. Therefore legislation action is required.
  • Crown ownership in perpetuity is essential, therefore we seek “inalienable” Crown ownership. This is a protection against the depredations of present and future governments.
  • Statutory rights of public recreation must be created. Currently there are only limited common law rights of navigation and fishing from the water. Our petition seeks rights of general recreation over beaches and foreshore – guaranteed rights to walk, bathe, fish from the shore, picnic, build sand castles or throw a ball around – all forms of non-motorised recreation that do no harm and create no danger to anyone else. National’s petition doesn’t seek to give New Zealander’s any rights of use.

Note: Access TO beaches, foreshore and seabed (ie., below the high water mark) FROM the land depends on the provision of public roads and reserves. Otherwise access is at the pleasure of private land owners – this is increasingly being refused. Public access needs to be greatly improved on-land, but is not directly affected by current foreshore and seabed claims by Maori. Public Access New Zealand has taken to Government separate proposals for improving the ‘Queen’s Chain’ and access to and along the shore.