New Zealand foreshore and seabed controversy
Although under attack from both sides, the government chose to press forward with its legislation, asserting that what it called its "middle way" was the only means of satisfactorily resolving the controversy. Criticism of the government, both from Māori and from opposition parties, continued to intensify, and the government began to lose ground in opinion polls.
On 18 November 2004, Tim Selwyn put an axe through a window of the electorate office of Helen Clark, an act he described as a protest against Helen Clark's handling of the issue.
On 18 November 2004, the Labour/Progressive government passed the Foreshore and Seabed Act, which declared that the land in question was owned by the Crown. Māori can, however, apply for "guardianship" of certain areas. The Act was highly contentious.
The foreshore and seabed issue, as part of the larger race relations debate, was one of the most significant points of contention in New Zealand politics at the time, and remains a significant issue for many people. The Labour government's popularity was severely damaged by the affair, although subsequent polls showed that it recovered its support and Labour was elected for a third term in September 2005.