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.