16 Aug 2018

Govt admits it wants final say on water body

12:02 pm on 16 August 2018

Iwi leaders have walked away from the government's bid to set up a Māori freshwater advisory group and say without collaboration it is not a process reflective of a treaty partnership.

Shotover River.

Shotover River. Photo: sellphoto1/123RF

The Iwi Chairs Forum has rebuffed the government's bid to set up a Māori freshwater advisory group, and yesterday said it will be going to court.

The Environment Minister David Parker announced the Kāhui Wai Māori proposal at a forum meeting about two weeks ago.

The meeting was the first between the leaders and the government since Cabinet agreed not to pursue any water ownership rights for Māori.

But the Forum and the Pou Taiao Iwi Leaders Group have said they will not be nominating members for the advisory group.

Tina Porou, the lead technician of the environmental arm of the Iwi Chairs Forum, told Morning Report a lack of consultation and engagement on this issue caused the Forum to walk away.

"We've been working really well in terms of engaging with the Crown on rights of interest over the last few years, at least in terms of having an open conversation, and this new vehicle really doesn't give affect to a Treaty partnership."

It wasn't a collaboration and all of the appointments will be made solely by the Crown, she said.

"That's just not a Treaty partnership in the eyes of the Iwi Chairs Forum."

Ms Porou said it was a presentation rather than a conversation.

She said the Iwi Chairs Forum has made it clear, they're always ready to engage.

"Right, interests and responsibilities on fresh water are core to all iwi and hapū, it's just the manner in which that engagement occurs."

She said they are open to a conversation about how to collaborate in a way that is fair, equitable and reflects the Treaty partnership.

"That door's open."

In the lead-up to the election the Labour Party campaigned on a royalty on the commercial consumption of water, which would include working with iwi to resolve Treaty water claims.

When Labour went into coalition with NZ First, which is opposed to Māori ownership rights, that policy was canned.

Environment Minister David Parker confirmed this morning speaking with Morning Report that the Crown is going to make all of the appointments to the water body.

"All of the people on it would be Māori represented [with] Māori interests."

Minister of Economic Development David Parker. 10 April 2108

Environment Minister David Parker Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

He said the government invited the Māori Council and the Federation of Māori authorities to make nominations alongside the Iwi Chair Forum.

"We need a representative body of people who are experts in these issues rather than having another three-year journey upskilling everyone to the complexities of some of these difficult issues," he said.

"It's clear the the Iwi Chairs wanted to be the primary group that the government engages with. The government has a different view and we wanted to have an engagement ... that includes them but is not exclusively with them."

He said going to court won't solve the problem iwi and hapū have.

"We really need to grapple with these underlying issues and you can't do it, in our view, just through Iwi Chairs which is why we want a broader and more inclusive working group, Kāhui Wai Māori."

In a western property sense, no one owns water, he said.

"Whether you say no one owns water or everyone owns water, there are some people who have rights and interests that other people don't have and that includes people who hold existing water permits and it also includes unresolved Māori rights and interests."

"We've got to come up with methodologies that fairly allocate rights to discharge water, that's, I think, one of the key attributes to fix water quality, we've got to do that in concert with Māoridom but also with groups outside of Māoridom."

He said it's a complex issue that needs a group representative of a range of Māori interests to work to achieve the outcomes.