Amongst the claims of unity amongst Maori there is still plenty of confusion.
Confusion about what unified Maori will ask for.
And confusion over what water rights and ownership means. There have been a number of attempts to define that in the past and it’s still not clear.
There should be recognition of the precarious position of Maori unity over water, a central figure says.
Waikato-Tainui’s Tom Roa has welcomed more than 60 heads of tribes to the Iwi Chair’s Forum today at Turangawaewae Marae.
The meeting resolved that:
* Proprietary rights in water must be settled before the sale of shares in Mighty River Power
* A group should be set up to choose negotiators to deal with the Crown
* If those negotiations fail iwi support a New Zealand Maori Council court challenge.
But what are ‘Proprietary rights in water?
Mr Roa said discussions with Watercare had been promising.
Asked if that was still the case, given King Tuheitia’s stance that the tribe had always owned the water, Mr Roa said: “I hate that word ownership because when I own something, it means exclusively and it’s a commodity that I can buy, that I can sell. That’s what ownership is but my Maori mind says ‘I belong to the water and the water belongs to me.”
Asked if a lot of Maori would be confused by the ownership debate, he said: “Absolutely.”
It isn’t just Maori who are confued. But some seem more certain:
Yesterday, Te Rarawa’s Haami Piripi said he supported both the Iwi Leaders Group and the Maori Council. But it was clear the ILG with the government hadn’t yet achieved the aspirations around water management and kaitiakitanga for Maori.
He said Maori owned water: “We do own the water. We own it because we had a ture [law] here before the Pakeha got here.”
But we still don’t seem to have any clear consensus about what sort of ownership is being claimed.
But it’s clear from some what the intent is, Haami Piripi:
The sell-down of Mighty River Power was an opportunity to get movement on both rights and ownership, he said.
“My experience has been in this situation there’s only one way we can get a government to listen to us and that’s to threaten it…we have to be able to use that leverage …to make sure we get some more gains.”
I think that sentiment is what is escalating this – there’s a clear impression that some Maori (just some) are simply opportunists intent on using the current situation to extort what they can. I may be interpreting that incorrectly but it’s how many people see it.
Once Maori are settled on their unity they need to unify their motives and clarify what they are seeking in water rights.
One thing’s for sure, there’s a lot of water to flow under this yet, and we somehow need to bridge the divides.