By Duncan Garner
Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples says Prime Minister John Key might be culturally ignorant, as claimed by the Maori King's spokesman Tuku Morgan, if he continues to deny just how important water is to Maori.
Dr Sharples’ comments came as he called for a debate about what ownership of water really means.
There was always going to be a song and dance when the Maori King said, “We have always owned the water.”
Now the Maori Party wants to debate what 'ownership' for Maori really means.
“What are the differences between the Prime Minister's ownership and the ownership of King Tuheitua and the Maori people?” Dr Sharples asked.
Mr Key says there is no debate needed.
“It's crystal clear no one owns the water,” he says.
Instead the Government will from tomorrow engage in six hui over 10 days in Hamilton, Taupo, Whanganui, Te Kuiti, Tuai and Christchurch - but only with selected iwi who have a specific connection to fresh water and geothermal resources used by Mighty River Power, Genesis and Meridian.
The Maori Council’s Rahui Katene says that's a sham.
“There is no good faith when you set the agenda for what will be discussed. Their minds are already made up."
But Mr Key is convinced he is taking the right action.
“My legal advice is we are doing the right thing.”
The Government will consult over what's called 'shares plus', a recommendation to give Maori shareholders more rights than other shareholders - it's already unacceptable to Mr Key.
“We'll see if there is something we've missed.”
And Mr Morgan continued his sniping at Mr Key today. Yesterday he said Mr Key was 'culturally ignorant', today he went further telling 3 News: "My use of the words 'culturally ignorant' is around John Key's denial of water as a taonga and the Prime Minister doesn't understand that. It's his denial of our mana. We have mana over our entire river, the water, the river bed, its banks - it's our living ancestor."
Mr Key says he's unfazed by the criticism.
“It doesn't worry me.”
But he got this from his coalition mate, Dr Sharples.
“It's not for me to talk about whether a view is ignorant, but in the sense that it denies the Maori view as valid, yes it is.”
A number of senior Maori have told 3 News that initial talks have begun on sending a hikoi or march to Wellington later in the year, to protest the Government's response.
About 20,000 people gathered in Wellington in 2004 over the foreshore and seabed and some in Maoridom say a similar turnout is not out of the question.