Maori resisting King Tuheitia rule?

King Tuheitia arranged the recent water hui, where in the closing speech he expressed strong views on water ownership. According to NZ Herald (in Iwi tries to fix split on water) this was a major change:

What is not in doubt is that there has been a sharp evolution of the Kingitanga. In the past, spokesmen have been the voice of the movement – in part to protect the monarch from direct criticism.

King Tuheitia’s speech to 1000 Maori on such a charged issue changed that.

Since the hui there have been obvious differences amongst Maori – different views and different approaches to dealing with the water issue. The King’s spokesman is trying to enforce unity:

King Tuheitia’s spokesman Tuku Morgan is emphatic that all iwi leaders must stick to resolutions passed at the King’s water summit, which include working out a framework for water rights before iwi negotiate with the Crown.

Immediately after the hui this month, Mr Morgan said: “The A list of Maoridom were here, the who’s who of Maoridom were here – they are part of the decision and they are bound by the decision.”

This seems to be an attempt to change the way Maori do things, and there has been resistance to this.

But Tom Roa, who is chairman of the tribe’s executive board Te Arataura and on the Iwi Leaders Group for Freshwater, says the King’s “strong” position on water – that Maori own it – also reflected respect towards the individual right of iwi to go back to their people to weigh the resolutions.

“From my perspective … every iwi and every hapu has their right to their autonomy and that includes Waikato-Tainui.

“The New Zealand Maori Council will not negotiate on Waikato-Tainui’s behalf. Nor will any group. That’s our plain position and I suggest that’s the position of every iwi and hapu in the country.”

It now seems apparent that the water hui was an attempt to promote a specific view on water rights (the King’s view) and to get all Maori to join in and follow the King’s initiative.

If Waikato-Tainui won’t give up their autonomy and follow the (Waikato based) King there’s little chance of more distant iwi becoming subjects of the King.

Unity and confusion over water

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.

Call for recognition of Maori water unity

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.