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“Freshwater Commission” a solution to claim, says academic

“Freshwater Commission” a solution to claim, says academic

The formation of a “Maori Freshwater Commission” could lead to a lasting resolution to Maori claims to rivers says Treaty expert and historian at AUT University, Professor Paul Moon.

As Maori meet at the hui convened by King Tuheitia to discuss the recent Waitangi Tribunal claim, Professor Moon has proposed the creation of commission which would:

• Be pan-tribal;
• Be responsible for co-managing rivers with the Crown;
• Play an active role in developing a new regulatory role for water usage;
• Receive a portion of the dividend for any commercial use of the water.

However, Professor Moon points out that such a body could only work if property rights for water are more clearly defined.

“It is obvious that rivers are currently being used to generate revenue. It therefore needs to be acknowledged by the Crown that water is a commodity and the time has come to formalise the way in which its usage is charged”.

Professor Moon cites the example of the Maori Fisheries Commission, which has been operating effectively since the 1990s, managing a share of the country’s fishing quota on behalf of Maori. “If water was more effectively commodified, perhaps using a quota system”, he says, “a similar commission could work to manage Maori cultural and commercial interests in rivers, lakes, aquifers, springs, and so forth”.

He points out that the European Union is presently also tackling issues of freshwater management, and is addressing similar challenges regarding its commercial use.

“This is a matter that will not go away”, Professor Moon says, “on the contrary, as the pressures on water usage increase, Maori interests in the commercial value of fresh water will become more pronounced. Now represents an opportune time to address the issue in a comprehensive and lasting way”.


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