May 6, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Maori aspirations for water keep iwi, hapu unified

6 min read

In an embarrassing start to the Government’s Consultation on Water with Maori, two hui have come back with strongly worded reminders to Minister of Finance Bill English that all is not well with their plans to privatise water and sell State Owned Assets that use the vital resource.

In Hamilton yesterday, King Tuheitia sent word that he would not be attending the first of 6 planned meetings, which started an unofficial boycott of the planned hui. With barely a handful of people to listen to facilitator Sir Wira Gardiner, the message was loud and clear – No Deal.

Then today, the Water Consultation show moved down to Taupo, where various hapu and iwi agreed to attend but signaled a similar message; that is, Maori have recognised legal rights, cultural duties and local relationships which must be respected before the National Government could even contemplate proceeding with any partial sale.

Even thought the discussion was meant to be tightly focused on the Shares Plus scheme, the wider water discourse was the obvious kaupapa.

Yvonne Tahana from the Herald wrote:

“Ngati Tuwharetoa and Te Arawa leaders have taken a different approach to a government hui near Taupo today by turning out in force. A paramount chief has told a full room including Deputy Prime Minister Bill English that he expects the iwi’s own preference – to keep engaging directly with senior government ministers over water rights to continue. It is a position at odds with King Tuheitia’s water summit last week”.

Tainui leaders boycotted the first hui yesterday in Hamilton. King Tuheitia’s spokesman Tuku Morgan told Radio New Zealand today that the hui was a waste of time and money. Leaders from across the Central North Island including Ngati Raukawa, a significant Tainui tribe, Ngati Tuwharetoa ki Kawerau plus those who have interests in geothermal land are also in attendance.

Mike Watson and Danya Levy from Stuff said:

About 80-90 people from six iwi have turned out at Taupo’s Wairakei Resort to hear Deputy Prime Minister Bill English present the Government’s water rights roadshow.

Today is the second day of the roadshow, after English yesterday presented to a half-empty hall in Hamilton. The Government is consulting on a narrow issue of “shares plus” which would give Maori veto rights, following a Waitangi Tribunal recommendation, but it has already said it believed there was no merit in the concept.

The iwi attending today’s meeting are Ngati Tuwharetoa, Te Arawa, Ngati Raukawa, Ngati Tahu Koriti Kahukura, and Ngati Whaoa. Tuwharetoa paramount chief Sir Tumu Te Heuheu addressed the meeting, followed by English, who made a 20-minute Powerpoint display outlining the Government’s intentions. Among the crowd are the Mana Party’s Annette Sykes, former National Party MP Georgina Te Heuheu, and kaumatua from each of the iwi, including Toby Curtis from Te Arawa.”

In another intriguing signal, we have recently received an email from Mark Solomon, Kaiwhakahaere o Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu.

At the Te Runanga September meeting held at Rapaki at the weekend Te Runanga discussed the recent developments in freshwater. Te R?nanga supported the continued direct engagement with the Crown via the Iwi Leaders Group and the Land and Water Forum.

Key issues for Ngai Tahu continue to be:

Water quality

Sustainable use

Sensible regime for allocation

Retention/restoration of customary waterways

Fair and equitable consideration for iwi when it comes to economic benefits

Appropriate Treaty partner influence over management/governance of freshwater.

At a recent water hui at Turangawaewae Marae, a proposal was put forward to set up a new pan-Maori group to step in and negotiate iwi freshwater rights and interests with the Crown. I have set out below an extract of the presentation given by Sir Tumu Te Heuheu on Thursday as I think this neatly summarises the issues which came to the fore in the two hui held last week at T?rangawaewae Marae.

There has been much discussion and debate in recent times about how best to progress these issues. The Governments stated intention to sell partial shareholdings in a number of State Owned Enterprises, some which are large users of water for hydro-generation has in turn generated a flurry of activity.

We believe a number of issues have become conflated together under the banner of M?ori rights and interests in freshwater. We need to stand back and separate out these matters.

Let us be clear, our rights and interests in waters do not just exist on waters that just happen to be used by power companies. And let us also consider this even on those waters where the power companies operate, the power companies are but one of many hundreds of consent holders who have rights to use those waters. We should not allow ourselves to be distracted from the bigger picture.

What I encourage us all to do is to think about what are the outcomes that will best meet our expectations for the recognition of iwi rights and interests in water. As the Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group we have asked ourselves these questions will having shares in a power company in the Waikato really make a difference to the people of the marae in the far north whose rivers are being polluted by bad farming practices?

The Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group believes that establishing and maintaining an enduring connection and relationship with our wai now and into the future is in a contemporary context must be our primary objective.

For the iwi leaders group that means:

being able to both express our mana, and meet our obligations as kaitiaki by making decisions around how our wai is used,

knowing we have set rules and limits to ensure the quality and quantity of the wai is sufficiently high to protect the mauri of the wai and enable us to undertake our cultural practices,

and equally, to share in the economic benefits of using our wai.

As you will hear from others of the iwi leaders group today, the engagement we are having with the Crown is not just about our rights, it is also about our responsibilities, and it is about the mechanisms by which we can give effect to our responsibilities to exercise kaitiakitanga now and into the future.

The solutions we are seeking must be capable of being meaningful to the people of every marae and for waters of importance to them. This means that there must be a range of mechanisms which are capable of being applied to every water body whether it is a spring, aquifer, river, lake swamp whether that water body is in Te Tai Tokerau or in Murihiku.

What the iwi leaders group have been advocating for is the tools which our people need to give effect to the concepts of Mana Atua Mana Tangata first we look after the water and then the well-being of the people will follow.

I am sure most of us have similar goals.

Following these discussions the Iwi Chairs Forum met the next day and more than 45 iwi organisations who were present passed a formal resolution endorsing the Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group to continue engaging with the Crown in the development of a new freshwater framework for Aotearoa.

Te R?nanga are mindful of the responsibilities that Papatipu Runanga hold as kaitiakitanga and know it is critical that the national freshwater framework must delivers results, which allow whanau to better manage freshwater in their respective takiwa. Te R?nanga remains aware of our rights and obligation as responsible Treaty partners and the freshwater policy framework must give effect to the Treaty of Waitangi partnership.

I have also attached the presentations made and report back by the Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group to the assembled iwi chairs last Friday. The Nga Matapono ki te Wai model forms the basis in which Te Runanga and the Iwi Leaders will continue to work with like-minded iwi to uphold iwi rights and obligations in freshwater. As shown in this document attached the health and wellbeing of the wai comes first and foremost and it is only when the quantity and quality of the waterway is acceptable that water is able to be allocated for other purposes.”

The next Hui is scheduled for Hawkes Bay next week.
So as you see, more will happen as we get to the half point in the Governments planned meet ups. Kia kaha tatou.



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