Public Property and Private Use Rights: Exclusive Occupation of the Coastal Marine Area in New Zealand
WATER AND SUSTAINABILITY IN AUSTRALASIA, NEW ZEALAND CENTRE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL LAW MONOGRAPH SERIES, Vol. 3, Klaus Bosselmann, Vernon Tava, eds., 2011
34 Pages Posted: 17 Jun 2011 Last revised: 2 May 2014
Date Written: June 14, 2011
In New Zealand individual rights to occupy the coastal marine area are conferred under the Resource Management Act 1991 (“RMA”). Coastal occupation is best understood as a private use right over public property. The conferral of private rights over property has lead some to define occupation as a property right. It is not an absolute property right. Such rights do not exist within contemporary legal systems. It does, however, display a number of characteristics that we would otherwise identify as belonging to the bundle of rights normally associated with private property.
Any comparison of coastal occupation rights to private property needs to be tempered by recognition that the coastal marine area is vested in the Crown and may not be alienated under the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004 (“FSA”). There is also a presumption under the RMA in favour of public access to the coastal marine area. The neoliberal approach to land based activities under the RMA is reversed in the coastal marine area, and private occupation is prohibited unless allowed by a plan or a resource consent. Furthermore, the extent to which resource consents are recognised as being either real or personal property is governed by the RMA. These statutory restrictions signal that occupation rights within the coastal marine area have a statutory origin.
Nevertheless, when occupation rights are broken down into their component parts it is apparent that they include rights to exclude, possess, use and transfer. This entitles consent holders to take actions to protect those rights under property related headings such as trespass and non-derogation of entitlement. Coastal occupation rights are not, therefore, either purely statutory or property based rights. This raises the question, what kind of rights are they? This paper concludes they are something new, and might be best considered, at least from an academic standpoint, as a hybrid right that confers both statutory and property rights to a public resource.
Keywords: allocation, coastal, exclusive, private, property, public, occupation, ownership, use, right
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