Dunne: Maori and water rights

Peter Dunne quoted:

While Maori do have rights with respect to water interests, they are not, nor can ever be, exclusive rights. Were they to be so, the logical conclusion must be that all New Zealand’s natural resources are owned by Maori, a claim that has long been rejected.

As with the foreshore and seabed, natural resources like air and water belong to all New Zealanders, and it is the Crown’s responsibility to exercise that ownership equally and fairly on our behalf.

Where customary usage can be established, then it would be appropriate to negotiate a particular settlement in each instance, again in a manner similar to the provisions of the foreshore and seabed legislation.

UnitedFuture long promoted the public domain solution for the foreshore and seabed, which was finally enshrined in the 2010 legislation. The same principle ought to be followed in respect of the current water rights debate.

Water rights for all

If you agree with this…

We believe that water is a universal resource and that everyone in New Zealand should share any rights to use water, and everyone should be able to have a say in how our water is used and managed.

…please Vote for this post, and Like and Share this Facebook page: Water rights for all

Maori have a right to try and get whatever water rights they want, but so does everyone else. We need to speak up and contest preferential rights, and ensure rights to water in New Zealand are shared by everyone.

Maori ‘speak as one’ on water – what about the rest of us?

For the moment at least Maoridom seems to have successfuly combined in a powerful voice to speak as one on water rights.

Maori speak as one on water rights

They are speaking as one on what they believe are their water rights. It’s not quite that simple, there have been varied views on what ‘water rights’ means to Maori, from a right to manage waterways to an expectation they should be paid for the use of water – and wind.

But the Maori voice is gathering in strength and purpose.

Who will speak up for the rest of us?

David Farrar said on Kiwiblog in A view that I will never accept…

The issue that worries me is having the Maori King assert ownership of all water in New Zealand. I do not believe that view can be left unchecked.

I don’t think it can be left unchecked either.

I hope media ask Labour’s Maori MPs if they agree with that view. Ask the Greens also – in fact all Maori MPs in Parliament.

That’s a futile approach.

I don’t think we can expect much of them. Nor National. Nor UF or NZF. Parliament doesn’t seem to know how to stand up to continuing claims of Maori, and excesses of Maori claims.

Maoridom has combined a powerful network into a potentially very strong voice on water rights. As an interest group they are pushing for as mucha s they can get. Good on them if they can pull it off.

The-Rest-Of-Us-dom (probably many with some Maori ancestry) need to stand up and fight for what’s important to us. If water rights are important to us then we need to stake our claim and fight hard.

Just don’t expect politicians to do it for us.

It means doing much more than commenting as individuals on social media, which is little more than whimpering on the sideline.

The rest of us have to speak up for the rest of us.

Who here is willing to join a Pan-All-Of-Us voice to claim our water rights too?


Maori Water King beheads Queen?

Are Maori effectively becoming New Zealand’s upper house, with a post-parliament say on anything that interests them?

On paper Queen Elizabeth is the highest authority in the country. But that monarchy is old and toothless.

The Maori King has orchestrated something potentially far more powerful here than Liz from the other side of the world.

Maori have had a very successful hui on water rights.

Hui calls for new deal on Maori rights

As momentum behind the water issue grows today’s gathering turned into a hui of national proportions.

As well as Maori leaders, groups including Kohanga Reo and Maori incorporations are represented, and all political parties except National.

Maori deliver crystal clear message on water

The king’s hui brought together the A-listers of Maoridom, but that wasn’t the inspired bit.

In Ngati Kahungunu chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana’s words, the B-listers, the C-listers and even the Z-listers were invited and their voices heard. So were women, urban Maori, and groups such as the Maori Women’s Welfare League.

That is what set it apart from any other forum in recent years.

Maori speak as one on water rights

A 1000-strong gathering of Maoridom has voted to boycott the Government’s fast-track consultation over asset sales and agreed to a united front on Maori water rights.

Maori representing some of the country’s biggest and smallest tribes descended on Ngaruawahia’s Turangawaewae Marae for the gathering – a show of strength after the Government rejected a Waitangi Tribunal call for a national hui on water.

The hui, convened by Maoridom’s King Tuheitia, overwhelmingly backed a resolution calling on the Government to halt the sale of power company shares until it had thrashed out a framework recognising Maori proprietary rights in water.

They believe they have the Treaty of Waitangi on their side, and they will use all the legal means they can to achieve their aims.

Good on them. They want to achieve something, they have extensive networks, they have gathered together and are combining the strength of many voices.

This will put a lot of pressure on Government, and it puts severe strain on National’s proposed asset share floats. Maori groups are using the system. Very successfuly here by the look of it.

But it raises questions about how our democracy works.

National campaigned extensively on their asset policy. They won an election. They put their policy through the parliamentary process. They got sufficient votes and their policy passed into law.

And now that law is being challenged. It is being challenged very strongly.

Is this how our democracy should work? Is it a fault in our democratic process, or a fair post legislation legal challenge?

Or have National just bungled their policy? It will be interesting to see what their next move is.

Who’s water hui?

A ‘national’ water hui has been called for:

King Tuheitia has convened a national hui on water rights after the Government ruled out responding to a Waitangi Tribunal request for it to do so.

(Key Government won’t go to hui)

There has been controversy over whether Maori Party MPs would attend, mostly generated by Hone Harawira. But it seems like there was never any intent to invite them:

The hui will be held at the Turangawaewae Marae at Ngaruawahia next week and spokesman Tuku Morgan today said King Tuheitia never intended to invite the Government.

“This was always going to be our time. The Government have their own agenda. They have decided to be selective about who they talk to. The issue of water impacts on Maori across this country and it is not the sole prerogative of small cluster of iwi.”

(Hone Harawira launches N-bomb)

But it doesn’t sound like this hui is intended to be representative of ‘maori across the country’.

A number of Maori MPs from various parties had rung and indicated they would like to attend and the hui would welcome them, he said.

But  only some Maori MPs would be welcome. That means it isn’t a ‘national’ hui. And it contradicts a previous statement:

King Tuheitia spokesman Tuku Morgan today said next week’s hui would unite all Maori.

“This national summit is for everyone, to enable all Maori across the political landscape, across the tribal landscape, to come together so we can have a significant discussion about how we expect to resolve in a cohesive way, the issue of the ownership of water,” he told Radio New Zealand.

(National water rights hui called)

It certainly doesn’t seem to be uniting very well.

It seems more like a politically motivated, politically aligned hui that specificaly excludes some Maori (and all non-Maori who might also have an interest in water rights).

Is Hone Harawira pushing divisiveness on behalf of the organisers? Or is he trying his own Maori splitting agenda to suit his political purposes?

Why is King Tuheitia organising it as a national hui? He represents some Maori in one region –  “A number of tribes supported the movement, but it became centred on the Waikato region and people.”

National hui? Or one-sided political hooey?

Who’s water hui? Who’s water?

Maori trying to protect that common interest in the water for us all?

And interesting explanation in the ODT by Dr Mick Strack, lecturer in land tenure at the School of Surveying, University of Otago, on the water rights wrangling:

History repeating itself in water debate

There is a widely held belief and expectation that water is an asset that is common to all. It is certainly a free-flowing and largely un-owned component of our natural and physical environment.

However, our English-derived common law generally assumes any property rights in tidal and navigable rivers are held by the Crown, while all other rivers are held within private titles.

In other words, the common law has no problem with, first of all, assigning property rights (such as use of, and access) to water, and also recognising private title to rivers, neither of which have unreasonably restricted publicly asserted rights such as fishing and use of rivers.

The current debate about “ownership” of water and rivers has arisen because the Crown, in proposing to sell state energy companies, is apparently (even if not legally) assigning a set of private property rights to the water and rivers involved, that may impinge on the exercise of Maori customary rights to rivers.

These issues are not new.

One component of a Maori customary right includes Maori role as kaitiaki; their management of the river.

Given the state of many New Zealand rivers and the state of current management, it would be a good thing if specific hapu with mana over their own rivers held and applied their management duties for the greater good of us all and of our natural environment.

Customary rights are normally held communally or collectively, and they are not individual and exclusive.

They are unlikely to deny general public rights to use and enjoy rivers, and Maori have often recognised this fact.

Several Maori have announced the current objection to privatising state assets is not initiated by a desire to limit public rights, but just to ensure those common rights are not sold into private ownership without first recognising the existence of underlying customary rights.

In this respect again, we see history repeating itself.

If the Crown chose to extinguish Maori customary title without also extinguishing private titles to rivers, it would again be legislatively possible but clearly discriminatory.

Corporate ownership is likely to demand a higher level of control over the water asset and that is likely to restrict public rights, as well as Maori rights.

The fact Maori are putting their oar in the water here and saying taihoa is essentially protecting that common interest in the water for us all.

Full article:  History repeating itself in water debate

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.

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

Who owns the rain?

Peter Dunne addresses this on Twitter:

Maori freshwater claims beg question of who owns the rain? Water and air belong to all of us, equally and indivisibly.

In a seemingly conciliatory interview on Firstline this morning Pita Sharples seemed to be suggesting something similar (not online yet).

The issue of who owns water is not new. From Dunne:

“They say what comes around goes around. Here is a comment I made in March 2007 on this very issue:”


United Future leader Peter Dunne says that claims by Maori Party that Maori have customary rights over fresh water go beyond what is acceptable to most Kiwis.

“The Maori Party appears to be asserting Maori rights to all New Zealand’s natural resources, the things we have in common.

“That will be a step too far for most New Zealanders.

“The fresh water claim simply begs the question, ‘Who owns the rain?’, and shows the absurdity of the position being adopted,” he says.

Mr Dunne says the fresh water argument raises again the concept of public domain which United Future tried unsuccessfully to have included in the original Foreshore and Seabed Act.

“Natural resources like air and water belong to all New Zealanders, and it is the Crown’s responsibility to exercise that ownership equally and fairly on our behalf,” he says.

“I would say the same thing today.”

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?