MPs say Māori own water

By Heeni Brown

On Native Affairs' Leaders Debate, it was revealed by the majority of the MPs that Māori own all freshwater and follows National's stance that nobody owns the water.

The Māori Party, Mana and The Opportunities Party all agree, Māori own all fresh water.

When asked who owns water, Māori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell replied "Te Ao Māori", the Opportunities Party leader Gareth Morgan said "Māori" and Mana leader Hone Harawira said "Māori".

Harawira says, "You have to start from the base where the kaitiakitanga, the care of the resource, the ensuring that the resource is going to be there forever. It starts with Māori and Māori have to take that challenge seriously that we don't see water as a commercial commodity but as a taonga for all New Zealanders forever."

Labour and Greens on the other hand had a different stance.

Labour's deputy leader Kevlin Davis says, "We've said Māori have interests in water. We agree with the Waitangi Tribunal and the Water Forum and that we need to sit down and work out what those interests are with Māori."

Greens co-leader James Shaw says, "We say that under Te Tiriti o Waitangi it is clear that Māori have customary and propriety rights and responsibilities over water."

This month, Labour released its fresh water policy to charge a royalty for commercial water and to use the money to clean up rivers, lakes and streams.

In response, the Minister of Treaty Negotiations Chris Finlayson described the Labour Party's water tax as an assertion of Crown ownership of water.

Te Ururoa Flavell says, "National said no-one own water. Labour says everyone owns water. We say actually how about you talk to tangata whenua about the issue of ownership of water."

James Shaw says, "Once again, the National Party, who aren't here tonight, have kicked that can down the road and we will never work out how to rescue our rivers, how to manage that resource sustainably and how to equitably handle it between all of ourselves until we engage in that conversation."

Meanwhile, Local Government NZ has launched a water policy that recognises the allocation of iwi rights and interests in freshwater and hopes to have this in place by 2050.