Peace achieved with no winners or losers
Fri, 20 Jul 2012 3:30p.m.
By Peter Wilson, Political Writer
The Maori Party's peaceful relationship with the government has been restored, with neither side gaining any clear concession or advantage.
One thing was obvious after the talks between the party's co-leaders and Prime Minister John Key on Wednesday night - they both wanted to defuse the water rights issue and remove uncertainty over the future of their support agreement.
Those aims were achieved in ways which do not seem to have changed anything in any substantial way.
Key's comment that the government does not have to take any notice of Waitangi Tribunal reports, which Sharples and Turia had described as an insult to all Maori, has now been accepted by them as "merely a reiteration of current law".
That's what Key always said it was, and the only change on that issue has been an agreement to discuss the tribunal report when it is released.
If, as expected, the tribunal rules in the Maori Council's favour and says the partial privatisation of four state-owned energy companies should be put on hold, the discussion will take place and then the government will ignore the report.
Key did not have to give away anything to clear that up.
The next issue is the one the Maori Party says was really important, although it was not known to the media until after the meeting and caused some initial confusion.
Key has agreed not to extinguish Maori water rights through legislation.
The Maori Party says its real concern was to gain assurance there will not be another version of the previous government's Foreshore and Seabed Act, which removed any possibility of Maori holding freehold title to beaches.
Key was on safe ground when he gave that assurance.
Maori water rights have not been resolved - the very point of the Maori Council's application to the tribunal which asks that asset sales be delayed until they are.
The Maori Party put up a hypothetical situation which this government almost certainly won't have to deal with.
It will take years, probably decades, to work through claims. The possibility of a court ruling giving Maori water rights which the government cannot countenance are remote.
The government's way of dealing with claims does not involve seeking any sort of pan-Maori agreement on water rights, which would probably be impossible to achieve given the vested interests of numerous claimants.
It is dealing with the Iwi Leaders Group and discussing water rights on a case-by-case basis.
This is working, an example being Tainui's role in co-management of the Waikato River which was agreed with hardly a ripple of public discontent.
It is the way the government sees the future, and the Maori Party agrees with it.
That was confirmed in the joint statement issued after the meeting: "The Maori Party and the government continue to support a process of negotiation between hapu and iwi and the government on their rights and interests in water."
The joint statement also noted: "This debate is not about ownership."
That was almost certainly at Key's insistence. His position has always been that no one owns water and Maori never will. The Maori Party has conceded it is not going to push that particular issue.
Sharples and Turia are claiming victory over the government, hoping to silence their critics who called on them to pull out of their support agreement.
Key is carefully avoiding saying anything that might spoil their chances of getting away with it.
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21/07/2012 3:33:36 p.m.
I honestly cannot believe how Sharples and Tarinna Turia can show their faces in public. They are not leaders, just feathering their own agenda. The taste of power and privilege is too much to give up. They are retiring soon; they don't want to lose their perks and pensions they will receive as retired ministers. The Maori Party are dead. RIP
20/07/2012 10:32:40 p.m.
Tarianna Turia... woman with many issues... her biggest being that she is immature and wont let go of a grudge.
Staying with National will kill off the Maori Party... Traditionally and even under John Key National doesnt help Maori and never has infact National ALWAYS make life much much much more difficult for Maori Whanau.
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