Maori don’t own water – Solomon


The Maori Council’s view that Maori own water and their rights are threatened by the partial sale of a few energy companies isn’t share by all Maori.

Ngai Tahu chair Mark Solomon says:

. . . We were the first people here. We managed our river systems. What we’re saying is we want input into the governance, into the management of the water systems. We do believe that we have a right to an allocation of water. But we do not – and this is a Ngai Tahu perspective: we cannot stand up and ask the government to recognise our rights and interests in water by advocating the taking away of rights and interests of other people. Ngai Tahu was part signatory to the Treaty of Waitangi, to which we believe is a partnership. We believe that there is a win-win model that gives Maori access to water alongside the rest of the nation so that we can be part of the economy of New Zealand. . .

. . .  Do I believe that Maori have an ownership in the sense of a fee simple title? No, I don’t. That is a Pakeha concept. Um, when I look at the concept of ownership within a Maori paradigm, I believe it’s about you have a right of use to use the fruits, or in a Pakeha term, the usufructuary rights, but I think you have a reciprocal obligation of kaitiaki. How you define that to a Pakeha word of ownership, I’m not quite sure.

This is part of an interview with Shane Taurima which shows a far more moderate and reasoned view of issues over water and the partial sale of energy companies than most others which have hit the headlines.

He also has this to say about the Maori Council’s pending court action:

Ngai Tahu’s stance and the members of the Iwi Leaders Group, our position is we would far prefer a negotiated agreement than court. Court, to us, has always got to be the last option, not the first. All it does is give the lawyers the new Mercedes every year.

SHANE           Have we reached that point, in your opinion?
MARK             No.

This shows the difference between an Iwi which is focussed on growth and those which are still stuck in grievance mode.

Court action will get publicity but it will be costly and will almost certainly achieve less than negotiation.

SHANE           So what should, do you think, be happening instead of going to court?
MARK             We can’t speak on behalf of all Maori. There is a big group of us that have a view that we need to be coming to a negotiated agreement. We will go along our path. We cannot stop any other group from taking legal action, and that is their right if that is the path that they wish to take.
SHANE           But you won’t be supporting this action being taken by the council?
MARK             Not at this stage. No, we will not.

SHANE           Tainui and the Maori King have pledged their support for the council; you won’t. So, going back, I suppose, to the Winston Peter’s quote, isn’t he right when he says the government is dividing?
MARK             There are 500,000, close to 600,000, Maori in New Zealand. I’ve never known any sector or community to have a unanimous view. We are like any other people. We will have varied views, and that is all of our right.

This is an important point and why the government keeps saying it will deal with individual Iwi rather than Maori as a whole.

Some Maori see a threat in the partial sale of a few energy companies. But while Solomon says he doesn’t support the sales personally he doesn’t believe the sell-down of a state owned energy company will affect Ngai Tahu’s rights and interest in water.

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