New Māori group to engage on freshwater issues

Māori leader Maanu Paul is critical of the Government's direction on the future of water rights. Environment Minister, David Parker, hopes to set up a new advisory group on freshwater called the Māori Freshwater Forum.

Maanu Paul says freshwater is a taonga of huge significance for us all. And he's critical of the Government's decision to set up a new advisory body for freshwater.

“Personally, the Government has hijacked our scheme and have said that they have the authority to say which Māori can stand. My answer to that is no, they don't have the authority we do”.

The Minister of Environment wants to engage with Māori over freshwater in a new forum. According to the Minister, part of the role of the group 'Kāhui Wai Māori' is to provide advice to him and his government, but for how far that advice will go remains to be seen. 

Paul says, “That group will have no teeth. I believe that group will actually have no power because the government says who can be in it.” 

But, according to the Te Arawa Lakes Trust Chairman Sir Toby Curtis, this new group is a good step towards finding common ground with the Crown.

“We want to sit beside the regional councils, they have been given the right to allocate water rights and only them have this right.”

The Minister is seeking applicants with backgrounds including Iwi / hapū and pan-Māori organisations, natural resource planning, mātauranga Māori and science.

“We, as in Māori and hapū, have our own people. Like we have said to the Tribunal, establish our own committee that communicates with the government on how the policies and laws are set down for freshwater,” says Paul.

Sir Toby warns the issue pertaining to Māori ownership of water will not be solved overnight.

“We have more of a connection to water than anyone.”

Nominations open for the group on August 20.