Govt divided on fresh water rights

“Words” spoken between Crown/Maori Relations Minister Kelvin Davis, Finance Minister Grant Robertson, and Environment Minister David Parker on Monday prompted Stuff reporter Jo Moir to surmise on how the battle lines are drawn between coalition partners on water rights.

A series of missteps by successive governments has meant that an issue over water ownership and a Maori claim to a share of that ownership has appeared and grown over a number of years.

Parker's policy allows for a royalty on commercial water consumption, which is intended to help with the cost of cleaning up waterways and resolving long-standing Treaty water claims.

Davis knows that if Parker doesn't get it right for iwi then it's Labour's Maori caucus who will wear the mess and there could be another foreshore and seabed type exodus of Maori MPs from Labour.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters is staunchly opposed to any policy he sees as separatist and giving Maori any sort of ownership over water will always be a step too far for NZ First, would cost them votes, and send them out of Parliament in the next election.

The Greens are sitting on a supply and confidence deal with Labour that says no new irrigation schemes will be funded and the existing ones will be wound down.

The “words” spoken on Monday between Davis, Robertson and Parker were about the way some issues were being progressed without fully considering the impact it would have on Maori.


The common law position on water is that there has never been ownership of naturally flowing water. The law recognised the rights of landowners to take and use water flowing over or under their land. Such water is not owned until it has been taken.

The Hobson’s Pledge position on water is that it is there for the benefit of everyone, irrespective of ethnicity, and that a special deal for Maori is out of the question.

New Zealand has no shortage of water - in fact we have more water per person than almost any other country in the world - although there are issues related to the consenting and management of water.


War of words over Poverty Bay name change

A war of words is going on after the Gisborne District Council voted 13-1 to change the name of the district to Turanganui a Kiwa/Poverty Bay.

Turanganui a Kiwa was the original name for the region before Captain Cook landed over 250 years ago and called it Poverty Bay.

The council held a consultation and a phenomenal 1856 residents responded, with 49.5 percent submitting against the proposed dual name and 47.5 percent for it.

The council’s vote to adopt the dual name has left a number of locals shrugging their shoulders in disbelief.

The Gisborne Herald sided with the council on the name change, arguing in an editorial that the council has more information about the issue and therefore knows better.


Still looking for coherent reasons for Maori wards

The few who are promoting Maori wards still have not come up with compelling, or even coherent, reasons why they should be set up.

Five regions, namely Palmerston North, Manawatu, Kaikoura, Western Bay of Plenty, and Whakatane, are heading for a vote on whether to proceed with such wards and voting documents will be posted on April 27.

While collecting signatures on the petitions, we heard about six reasons for such wards.

They were that: The Treaty of Waitangi says we should, it’s too hard for Maori to get votes, they would form part of historical redress, they would relieve disadvantage, and, astoundingly, that it is the only way to guarantee a Maori voice on council, and that it’s being racist not to have them.

But the Treaty actually affirms equality for all, the number of Maori MPs in Parliament is evidence of Maori political success, Treaty settlements are intended for historical redress, separate Maori wards won’t reduce poverty, there is already substantial Maori consultation and every council has a Maori committee, and there is nothing racist in equal voting rights.

The vote closes on May 19.

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