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Iwi Leaders Group committed to Fresh Water Discussions

Iwi Leaders Group committed to Fresh Water Discussions

The Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group notes with interest the Waitangi Tribunal’s Interim Report on the National Fresh Water and Geothermal Resource Claim and the Tribunal’s important reconfirmation that Māori have rights and interests in fresh water that must be addressed by the Crown. 

“The Tribunal’s findings on the nature of Māori rights in respect of fresh water come as no surprise,” said Sir Tumu te Heuheu, Chair of the Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group.  “The Tribunal’s findings build on a number of earlier Tribunal reports on such matters and are entirely consistent with the basis on which the Iwi Leaders Group has been advancing these issues with the Crown.”

The primary focus of the Tribunal’s Report is directed to the Crown’s intended sale of shares in MOM companies.  While the Crown will undoubtedly give careful consideration to those matters given their significant public interest, the Iwi Leaders Group remains committed to progressing its existing discussions with the Crown.  Those discussions are focused on the appropriate recognition of iwi rights and interests in the context of the development of a new freshwater management framework in New Zealand.

“The preference of the Iwi Leaders Group has always been to advance these issues in direct discussions at a leadership level with the Crown, not through litigation.  The Tribunal’s Report does not alter that focus or commitment,” said Sir Tumu.

“One of the key principles for the Iwi Leaders Group is the health and wellbeing of our waterways.  We must, as a nation, find a way forward which protects the sustainability of our water resources into the future.  As I have said previously, that requires a careful balance between economic and environmental interests and must recognise and provide for the rights and interests of Māori.” 

“Fundamental to any enduring freshwater framework is the resolution of rights and interests of Iwi in respect of fresh water.  That resolution is not about ownership of water in any absolute sense nor exclusivity as is often misunderstood.  Rather, we are looking to fair and meaningful provision for the cultural and economic interests of Māori, alongside existing stakeholders and the public, as part of a new management framework.  These matters - which involve important issues in relation to fresh water governance, values and allocation - are at the heart of the ongoing discussions between the Iwi Leaders Group and the Crown.”

The Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group was formed in 2007 to advance the interests of all iwi in relation to fresh water through direct engagement with the Crown.  The Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group comprises the leaders of Ngai Tahu, Whanganui, Waikato-Tainui, Te Arawa and Tuwharetoa and reports regularly to all iwi through the national Iwi Chairs Forum.


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