Another unelected Maori trying to dictate

What’s in the water at the Waitangi Tribunal? Is it a tribunal, or an unelected Maori parliament?

Maori Council co-chairman Maanu Paul says the Maori Party’s supporters are now calling for an end to its relationship with National over the water issue.

‘Act like Maori’ – leaders to Maori Party

Maori leaders are speaking out against the Maori Party, with claims its co-leaders will not quit the Government because they have got no other jobs to go to.

A Waitangi Tribunal hearing into Maori ownership of water resources has heard evidence from iwi and hapu who are upset at the Prime Minister’s so-called dismissal of the hearing.

“They have nowhere else to go and so for them, their political life is almost at the O.K. Corral stage,” he says.

“In a Maori world, they should act like Maori – defend their mana, not the money.”

Maori Party MPs have been elected. By Maori voters. How many votes did Maanu Paul get?

Maybe he has been elected to the Maori Council. If so, who votes for that?  It’s not clear how the Maori Council Executive Committee is chosen, their website is very sparse.

The news reports says Maanu Paul is co-chairman, but that’s not what it says on their website. Maybe it’s out of date. It’s certainly incomplete.

Who is Maanu Paul speaking for? And with what mandate?

Sykes v Key on water and coalitions

Annette Sykes has warned John Key to stick to his knitting:

PM warned to leave water rights issues to the lawyers

Maori rights lawyer Annette Sykes has suggested Prime Minister John Key should either get a law degree or stay quiet about Maori water rights issues.

“Perhaps he needs to go and get a law degree, which has been one of my concerns about him since he started talking about this. He really does not understand the complexity of the overlay of rights relating to resources like water.”

Fair enough. But Sykes also says:

Ms Sykes also said Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia should put aside the ‘baubles’ of her office and remember she is Maori by walking out of the Maori Party’s agreement with National over water rights.

As Mana Party president, Ms Sykes said Mrs Turia in particular should have a strong stance on the issue because it was her own Whanganui iwi which was among the first to fight for rights over fresh water. Ms Sykes said if Mrs Turia did not act she was effectively abandoning the fight of her own people.

“I beg Tariana, who I’ve got the hugest respect for, to sit back and reflect and in the spirit of Che Guevera who obviously influenced her last week, position herself for freedom and the rights of our people rather than to take money as a Prime Minister’s friend at the table.”

Perhaps Sykes should get elected as a politician or stay quiet about party coalition relationships.

She said both Mrs Turia and Pita Sharples would have to give up a sizable portion of their salaries if they gave up their ministerial posts.

“It’s time for them to do that, it’s time to forget about money and promote the mana of our people. That’s one of the problems – when you’re given the baubles of the Crown to sit at a table and you’re going to have those baubles taken away it does sometimes impact on moral appropriateness and I’m asking them to put that to one side and think like Maori, act like the rangatira [chiefs/ leaders] they are and stand up for our people.”

There seems to be a conflict of interest. Is Sykes acting on behalf of clients on the issue of water rights? Or is she acting on behalf of a party trying to play politics at the Tribunal?

Annette Sykes is a lawyer acting for claimant hapu at the Waitangi Tribunal hearing on whether state asset sales should be put on hold until Maori water rights are resolved.

Flak jackets versus water proof coatings

John Key has copped most of the flack over water ‘ownership’, but he holds a fairly common view.

Labour has exactly the same position as National – nobody owns the water – and if there were an adverse finding of the Waitangi Tribunal would not necessarily follow them.

Yet leader David Shearer is unable to articulate it strongly for fear of sounding like National and for fear of offending the party’s Maori constituency.

Instead, he joined Mana’s Hone Harawira this week in calling for the Maori Party to end its support agreement with the National Government.

From: Tide of water issue uncomfortably high

Tricky position.

Fran O’Sulllivan looks at what David Shearer stands for.

I found myself wondering this week whether Shearer – who notoriously hates wearing a suit and tie – really only gets supercharged when he is wearing a flak jacket.

On water ownership…

The Shearer argument went something like this: Yes, John Key is inflaming things by rarking up the Maori Council and saying his Government won’t be bound by any Waitangi Tribunal ruling on the push to stop the Mighty River Power share float until a deal is done in this area.

But, no, Maori don’t have a valid water claim. Nobody owns water. We pay for water rights to use water, whether it be for irrigation or hydro-electricity or whatever.

From: Shearer lacks focus out of danger zone

A waterproof jacket is different to a flak jacket.

Labour – waking on water or feigning sleep?

More analysis is emerging now the initial Waitangi Tribunal and water furore has calmed down.

Water row raises complex issues

The campaign against asset sales that Labour and the Greens are running has become dangerously mixed up with Maori claims to water ownership.

The Maori Council’s bid to delay the partial privatisation of four state-owned energy companies was at first seen as a welcome new angle of attack.

But the Waitangi Tribunal hearings, where the council is seeking a finding that the share sales should be put on hold until water ownership claims are resolved, is being used as a platform for radical demands.

The focus has shifted from the asset sales programme to whether or not Maori should own water.

I suspect initial hopes that it might simply add weight to the anti-asset sales campaign will have changed to major wariness of what might happen.

While Labour always enjoys divisions between the Government and its partners, it needs to be very careful about the way it handles the water ownership fiasco.

On this issue it can’t afford to be equivocal any more than the Government can.

And it hardly needs reminding just how seriously Maori rights issues can threaten a Government.

The NZMC presumably knew exactly what they wanted to achieve. Hopefully Labour have woken up from their anti-asset obsession. Or maybe they are feigning sleep, which mightn’t be a bad way to try and ride this out.

Honouring our ancestors, leading with our hearts

By Dr. Pita R Sharples

‘Intergenerational’ is a word you often hear roll from the lips of our tangata whenua leaders. We work hard to honour the labours of our ancestors, while also building on their vision for our future generations. Those of us here and now are a part of a bigger picture that spans many generations, and are working in what we view as a truly intergenerational whanau approach.

So when the Waitangi Tribunal came into focus this week, after comments made by the Prime Minister that seemed to dismiss the value of this institution, it hit a nerve. You see, the Waitangi Tribunal is more than a place where Maori can go to have their cases heard, it is a place where our people relive the mamae and pouritanga of the past, and ultimately seek to have that burden lifted from our shoulders.

The hearings are a place to hear the stories of colonisation, and how they have impacted on our whanau, hapu and iwi. Some stories are so painful that they rarely escape the lips of our pakeke. You also hear about the brave endeavours of our tupuna and their hard work to seek a simple concept – true honouring of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

When our tupuna have suffered you cannot help but be profoundly moved by the depth of the grief that lingers on. Their pain is our pain, their joy is our joy, so when you move through a process of grieving, of airing, and finally of lifting of the mamae – it is a powerful experience. So powerful that it can change the course of entire communities, and you need only look at post-settled iwi to see how that transformation occurs. What we seek in the hearings of the Tribunal is not about money, it is about relationships and respect, it is about acknowledgement of past wrongs, in the hope that we can move forward.

So when you diminish one of the primary mechanisms that allow our people to grieve and to heal, you are also diminishing the memory of our ancestors – and that hurts. That’s what being intergenerational means.

While much of the focus this week has been on the water claims, the sale of mixed ownership model companies and the Tribunal – the real question on my lips is ‘Why, after more than 150 years, are we still having to explain our connection to our lands, waters, language, culture and taonga?’

I think the problem here is much larger than this one case, in this one week. The issue is a wider misunderstanding of what tangata whenua are trying to achieve through Treaty claim processes. I also think that while we have come so far as a nation, there is still a lingering attitude towards Maori rights, consultation, and ultimately Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

This week has been hard on us, and the strength of emotion around our relationship to water, our right to have our grievances heard, and the legacy of our ancestors has put a heavy weight on our shoulders.

But we persevere because we know that we have a duty to the next generation to ensure that their load will be lighter than ours. Our focus should be on addressing the barriers that stand in the way of true partnership, meaningful relationships, and respect between our cultures.

That is why initiatives such as the constitutional review, cultural competency training and Whanau Ora are of critical importance. It is about an investment into building a better future for our next generation. It is also an investment into bridging relationships across Treaty partners. If there is anything that I hope that we can take away from this week, it is the knowledge that tangata whenua do have a deep connection with the taonga around us, that we do value the processes which allows us to grieve and to heal and, ultimately, that we are prepared to stand up for what sits in our heart.

Those of us in the Maori Party cannot divorce ourselves from our identity as tangata whenua. It is an intrinsic part of who we are and it will always be our hearts that guide our work and our voice in parliament.

Dr. Pita R Sharples is Co-Leader of the Maori Party and MP for Tamaki Makaurau

Sourced from:

Maori Law and Politics view on water, assets and tribunals

An excellent analysis and summary of the asset sales, water rights and Waitangi Tribunal issues by Joshua Hitchcock on his ‘Maori Law and Politics’ blog, including:

Do Māori have rights to the water resource?

According to Tikanga Māori, yes. Prior to 1840, Hapū exercise ownership and control over all land and resources within their territory. This included the waterways and the water resource that flowed through their territory.

But both National and Labour claims that no-one owns water?

Yes, that is the position according to British Common Law. No-one owns water, the Government has the right however to allocate use rights over the resource.

What should we then make of the Prime Minister’s Comments?

What John Key said was fairly innocuous, and have been blown completely out of proportion for political gain. With the exception of land held by State-Owned Enterprises and Crown-owned forestry land, any recommendations made by the Waitangi Tribunal are not binding on the Crown.

This is as true today as it was in 1975 when the Treaty of Waitangi Act was passed and both Labour and National Government’s have ignored Waitangi Tribunal Reports over the decades – and will continue to do so.

And closes with:

What lessons should we learn from this?

The main lesson is that we need to start thinking a bit more strategically about the battles that we fight and the cases that we take to either the Waitangi Tribunal or the Courts. The NZ Māori Council were incredibly effective in the 1980s because they made smart decisions and took the right case to the appropriate forum. The Lands Case succeeded because it was a strongly argued case put before the Court of Appeal.

If you want to stop something, then forget about using the Waitangi Tribunal to achieve that. It’s best role is that of discussing the impacts of policy on Māori, not as a tool to prevent Government action. If you want to stop the partial asset sales process, then prepare a strong case and take it to the High Court.

Full post: Q&A: Māori Council Water Claim and Asset Sales

What if the Waitangi tribunal…

…rejects the current claims? Would the Maori Council accept those rulings?

John Key has said that the Government could ignore the ruling of the Waitangi Tribunal. That’s correct, the tribunal has been ‘ignored’ before by government. As a NZ Herald editorial says:

It is well known the tribunal’s conclusions are non-binding…

But Key’s statement was seen as inflammatory. To an extent that’s correct, but there has been quite a bit of fanning of the flames – and throwing on petrol – by Key’s opponents.

But what’s the likely outcome of this claim?

The case brought to the tribunal by the Maori Council this week seems to assert not only a Treaty right to the water and riverbeds used by a hydro power plant, but also a right to keep the plant wholly in public ownership. The tribunal may be hard to convince on both counts, particularly the second.

Demands are being made that Key should respect Waitangi Tribunal and accept any ruling.

Would the Maori Council accept that ruling if it didn’t support their claims?


Extorting water rights rort wrong

The Maori claim with the Waitangi Tribunal for water rights may have some valid legal basis, or may not.

But the timing of the claim makes it difficult to avoid the perception of cynical extortion, of trying to force the Government to give some people preferential treatment with the sale of MOM asset share floats.

Who owns water?

Water, like air, is one of the basic components of life. It circulates and cycles around the world, in oceans and land-based waterways and throughout the atmosphere. Rain that falls here came from an ocean somewhere else. Rain doesn’t belong anywhere.

Water can be contained temporarily. It can be consumed, it’s gravitational power can be harnessed. But water doesn’t belong in any one place, it didn’t come from any one place.

Water is a fliud, global resource. We borrow water that falls as rain. Then we give it back.

What if Maori can claim a legal right to water?

If Maori can claim watre rights through the Waitangi Trbunal and get that supported in our courts then it has to be dealt with.

If they do get awarded water rights it could be very complicated. When would water ownership be assigned. As soon as water vapour arrives over territorial waters? Over the coastline? At point of impact of rain? How would that be measured?

It should be a separate issue

Regardless, if this is a valid Waitangi tribunal claim it should be dealt with like any other claim, on it’s own merits.

It should not be used as leverage on one specific policy as an attempt to get financial advantage over others.

If monetary compensation is award for water rights it should be done separately. Then the recipients can use that money as they see fit, and can line up to buy shares like everyone else.

A bridge too far?

Is this attempt to take advantage of the sale of shares in assets a step too far? Too cheeky, too blatant, too cynical, too greedy?

Possibly. Public action and reaction may have a say.

Water rights and wrongs too important

The water rights issue is too important and wide reaching to get tied to the contentious issue of yesterday.

Will political leaders and parties address water rights? Or will they be cynical too and use this as yet another asset sales political football?

Who’ll stop the rain?

Long as I remember the rain been comin’ down
Clouds of mystery pourin’ confusion on the ground.
Good men through the ages tryin’ to find the sun.
And I wonder still I wonder who’ll stop the rain.

– John Fogerty