Maori Water Rights on Marae Investigates
Maori Water Rights on Marae Investigates
The Co-leader of the Maori Council
says he’s confident the Council’s water right claim will
derail the Government’s plan for State asset
Maanu Paul told TVNZ’s Marae Investigates programme this morning that the Government was planning to sell off assets without owning the water that gave value to those assets. He told interviewer Scotty Morrison “Once we get a decision from the Tribunal that says, yes Māori have proprietorial interests in water - Government go and negotiate with Māori, a cost will be incurred. Immediately overnight the shares will halve.”
His view was backed by political commentator and Adjunct Professor of Indigenous Studies at AUT Rawiri Taonui, who told the programme John Key was acting under a misconception when he stated no one owned water.
“You can’t go into another country and help yourself to their water or hook a hose up to an irrigation scheme on the farm or help yourself to water in a supermarket – you have to pay for it. It’s quite interesting Scotty that misconception is only ever cited when it comes to Māori water rights.”
Rawiri Taonui says the case to the Tribunal will provide a very important statement on indigenous water rights and believes it has the potential to derail the asset sales.
Maanu Paul denied the Council’s action was a ‘legal mugging’ to gain shares in the assets. ”My own people Ngai Moewhare of Te Runanga Nui o te Ika Whenua had a decision in 1996 from the Tribunal that said that the Government ought to compensate us for using and stealing our water to generate electricity power. We’ve been waiting over 16 years to get some justice and it’s the old story… justice delayed is justice denied.”
MARAE INVESTIGATES Scotty Morrison interviews Maori Council Co-leader Maanu Paul and political commentator Rawiri Taonui Adjunct Professor of Indigenous Studies, AUT regarding Maori claims to water rights.
The interview has been transcribed below. The full length panel discussion and stories from this morning’s Marae Investigates can also be seen on tvnz.co.nz at, http://tvnz.co.nz/marae
Do Māori have water rights and do they really exist in law?
Yes Māori have spiritual, cultural, life sustaining commercial and developmental rights to water that you could describe succinctly as the exclusive and undisturbed ownership of forestries, fisheries, lands and such toanga being water and the extent to which they were unfairly alienated would lead towards an interpretation that they continue to exist.
Most people would say no one owns the water and that Māori are being greedy. Is this the case?
John key said that no one owns the water earlier this year and that’s a common philosophical misconception but the reality of the real world is that Governments and peoples own and control the natural resources within their boarders; various landowners exercise different rights … and there are also a range of commercial rights. You can’t go into another country and help yourself to their water or hook a hose up to an irrigation scheme on the farm or help yourself to water in a supermarket – you have to pay for it. It’s quite interesting Scotty that misconception is only ever cited when it comes to Māori water rights.
Maanu is the Maori Council using the issue around water to resurrect itself in terms of how the iwi perceive the Māori Council?
The answer to that is no. The Māori Council has a act that states quite clearly that it is our statutory duty to protect all Māori and when Māori water is being stolen by example by the Whangarei City Council and given or charged off to some commercial operator who bottles it and makes money out of it and the water belongs to Māori. Then you have to ask are their two laws in this country and the Council is saying we will exercise the most powerful advocacy in order to protect all Māori.
Rawiri, we all know that the Council has taken this issue to the Waitangi Tribunal, do you think they can win this case for Māori water rights or are they just a relic of the past?
Well you don’t really win when you go to the Tribunal, what you do is get a report and an opinion and we know that in the past Māori Council in the 80’s 90’s took the Crown to the Tribunal and then the Courts and there were Pan- Māori settlements, but I don’t think there will be a Pan- Māori settlement in this case. It will come down to iwi negotiating with iwi. Never the less the Waitangi Tribunal action is a very important one because there’s been quite a lot of international debate for two decades now about the nature of indigenous water rights and what we need in NZ is a seminal statement on aboriginal title in NZ law and also in the international context that’ll frame those settlements. So I think it’s a very important action.
Maanu the Iwi Leaders Forum opposed your case to the Waitangi Tribunal, what’s you reaction to that?
Iwi leaders have a real responsibility to their beneficiaries but only to their beneficiaries they can’t speak on behalf of all Māori , only the Māori Council can do that.
Where does the mandate come from for the Māori Council to speak on behalf of all Māori ?
The 1962 Māori Community Development Act – it states quiet clearly that Māori Council has a statutory duty to protect all Māori and in doing so it has given rise to the Fisheries settlement, the fact you have Māori Television, the fact that Māori an official language of this country, the forestry settlements all those settlements were due entirely to the Māori Council taking the roll that it needs to protect from having their taonga under Article 2 – stolen commercialised by other people without even asking Māori.
Are you concerned that this could turn into an internal battle between the Council and the Iwi leaders forum?
No because the Council at its elections in Rotorua two weeks ago made a clear determination to extend te ringa aroha, the hand of generosity to all Māori groups. We also adopted the open door policy in order to grow the Council we need to have a full participation by all Māori and the majority of them are in the urban areas. So we need Māori sports groups, Māori arts and crafts groups Māori community groups who are fighting regional and local councils. We are saying to them together … when the roots of the Kahikatea all bind together they are virtually invincible.
So you’re talking working together unification. Rawiri do you think the Government will play the two groups off against each other … the Iwi Leaders Forum and the Council around this issue.
I think there is a risk – I mean we’ve seen this type of thing before. The internal debates over the Sealord settlement went on for nearly a decade or so but I think we’ve learned from that. My own view is that the roles of the Māori Council and Iwi Leaders Forum are probably complementary here in the sense that the Māori Council action will provide us with a seminal statement on water rights and then there will be negotiations on settlements between iwi and government and I think the Government and iwi would prefer it that way. That’s probably how its going to unfold and its not a bad thing. The direct negotiations between iwi and the Government have led to much better healthier settlements over the past five or six years or so.
Maanu, former Act MP Stephen Franks says your claim is and I quote “A legal mugging to lever free SOE shares out of an easy-touch Government” is he right?
No he’s well off the mark. It’s about s Māori aying we have an Act, we demand justice, we want justice to be seen to be done and that’s what we’re doing. And if he perceives that to be an easy mugging well then that’s his perception but the fact of the matter is – my own people Ngai Moewhare of Te Runanga Nui o te Ika Whenua had a decision in 1996 from the Tribunal that said that the Government ought to compensate us for using and stealing our water to generate electricity power. We’ve been waiting over 16 years to get some justice and it’s the old story… justice delayed is justice denied. And I’m saying to Stephen Franks as a lawyer, get your Act right, get on the wagon that provides justice for Māori.
Because a lot of people are saying this might affect the sale of SOE’s. Do you think this case will really derail what the Government’s trying to do in selling of State assets?
I firmly believe so. At the moment the Government is selling the State owned asset at no cost – meaning that it’s not paying a cent for the water that provides the value in the shares and that is to generate the power. Once we get a decision from the Tribunal that says, yes Māori have proprietorial interests in water Government go and negotiate with, Māori a cost will be incurred. Immediately overnight the shares will halve.
Rawiri – do you think the Tribunal will be able to derail the Government’s attemps to sell of SOE’s ?
There’s the potential for that. At the moment the Crown is trying to keep the issue of SOE sales and Māori water rights separate but we’ve seen comments from Bill English and John Key about preferential shares or buy back shares that will go to Māori and that tell us that they understand the issues aren’t separate and it’s going to be very interesting to watch.