Water row raises complex issues
Fri, 13 Jul 2012 12:36p.m.
The campaign against asset sales that Labour and the Greens are running has become dangerously mixed up with Maori claims to water ownership.
The Maori Council's bid to delay the partial privatisation of four state-owned energy companies was at first seen as a welcome new angle of attack.
But the Waitangi Tribunal hearings, where the council is seeking a finding that the share sales should be put on hold until water ownership claims are resolved, is being used as a platform for radical demands.
The focus has shifted from the asset sales programme to whether or not Maori should own water.
It has created conflict between the Government and the Maori Party and ignited trenchant anti-Maori comment on talkback radio.
As he deals with this, Prime Minister John Key knows exactly what he is doing.
His critics say he should have kept his mouth shut, but there was no way he could allow the perception to creep in that the Government would ever allow Maori to own water.
The fact that the issue has even arisen seems ridiculous because no Government would countenance such a claim, but that hasn't stopped submitters arguing fiercely that Maori have an absolute right to own water.
Key couldn't have shot that down more firmly than he did: "My position is rock solid and it isn't going to change - no one owns water. We would utterly dispute that Maori own water."
The council expects the tribunal to find in its favour, and Key couldn't stay silent on that either when he was under media pressure to explain what happens next.
Tribunal findings aren't binding on the Government, he pointed out, and could be ignored.
Those words brought an outcry from the council, Maori commentators and the Maori Party.
Tariana Turia's strange interpretation was that Key had "given permission for people to attack Maori".
He was also accused of showing disrespect for the tribunal, disregarding its processes and undermining its mana.
The Maori Party is again in the invidious position of having to defend its support agreement with the Government in the face of criticism from MPs like Hone Harawira - which is what the party's foot-stamping is mostly about.
"They're like chihuahuas yapping at their master and then coming back to their kennel for a feed," said Harawira, meaning Turia and Pita Sharples aren't prepared to put their money where their mouths are and pull the plug on the agreement which has given them ministerial portfolios.
Turia and Sharples say they want an urgent meeting with Key, but he hasn't obliged them and that's another indication of his reluctance to do anything that could be perceived as favouring the stance they have taken.
He said he didn't have time this week because of his travel schedule, which was less than convincing.
The Maori Party then believed the meeting would take place on Monday but Key changed that to around the middle of next week.
While Labour always enjoys divisions between the Government and its partners, it needs to be very careful about the way it handles the water ownership fiasco.
On this issue it can't afford to be equivocal any more than the Government can.
And it hardly needs reminding just how seriously Maori rights issues can threaten a Government.
When Helen Clark was prime minister she faced an Appeal Court ruling that raised the remote possibility that Maori could claim freehold title to beaches.
She reacted with the Foreshore and Seabed Act, putting the entire coastline into Crown ownership.
The fallout from that was far more serious than anything likely to result from the row over water rights.
Clark knew she couldn't take any chances. So does Key.
Post a Comment
Before commenting, please take the time to read our moderation guide
(Won't be published)
14/07/2012 9:02:20 a.m.
Ownership of water goes back to British law.It hasn't been changed by NZ Acts of parliment, nor NZ common(case) law, so it refers back further to Britsih common(case) law. In water ownership the case is hundreds of years old.Several hunderd years back a landowner tried to hold they owned the water so could charge/deprive those downstream of the water. This went to British court and the land owner was found to not own the water.Today a farmer in NZ can't dam a river or divert it as they dont own it. Nobody own the water, nor the waterways. Before we went metric in 1967 it was often refered to as the 'Queens Chain' which was a strip of land that wasn't owned by the land owner, ie protecting the publics rights and access to the water/waterway.NZ has followed this in that everyone has water rights - hence so much public effort to provide water for everyone.Take a biggot like David who attacks people not what they say. David claims that we dont follow British law. Who do we follow then? Yes we no longer appeal to the Privy Council, but that just means the highest appeal court has changed from the Privy Council to here in NZ to the Supreme Court - it didn't change the law. But a neanderthal like David wouldn't understand that. Dont worry, another 1000 generations of David, and they may yet re-discover fire! Or maybe not ...No water ownership protects everyones rights to water, plus also holds nobody responsible for water damage - again British law refers to 'Act of God' to describe something that nobody is responsible for like a flood. If water was owned, the owner would be responsible reguardless.
14/07/2012 12:36:49 a.m.
Trev Corrector wrote:
Trevor, Contact was sold in 1999. The sale as widely opposed and National lose the following election.
13/07/2012 5:22:23 p.m.
Why would kiwis need to apologise to a nasty bigotted elitest like John Key whos only interest is making the wealthy wealthier... because he happens to be one of them?.
Just asking out of interest.
13/07/2012 5:18:02 p.m.
Donna Hall the lead lawyer for the Maori Council admits now that Key was basically correct, no onw owns water, now it's more to do with ' customry rights'. Maori knew that puplic opinion was totally against them so they will 'revise' their claim down - it's all about the money honey.
13/07/2012 4:38:34 p.m.
I hate Labour wrote:
I see that now the Maori council concedes it does not 'own the water' but they certain 'rights'. John Key was correct all along. Even that moron Shearer meakly says now that noboby owns the water. Key is ahead of the game. All you leftie morons need to aplogise to him.
13/07/2012 4:32:07 p.m.
@Aiden, you have no idea what they said... but stir on little hater.
13/07/2012 3:38:48 p.m.
give maori the ownership of water I cant wait to see insurance companies go after them for costs from flood damage from their water. Trevor the tribes said give us percentage of the profits or we will claim ownership, this is just the greedy maori gravy train. it's funny maori used to have a spiritual connection to the land, now their connection is to greed.
13/07/2012 1:21:19 p.m.
Trevor J Williams wrote:
Why did Maori not oppose the sale of the Clutha Hydro stations to Contact Energy in the late 1980's? That was a classic case of selling off assets using water and surely is a precedent the government should be using right now.
Three weeks ago, Winston Peters made a speech to Grey Power in Takapuna, entitle...
For Peter Dunne it's another day and another big political setback. The Electora...
McDonald's workers striking will be a waste of time if a strike-breaking bill pa...
A US data company called Palantir has set up base in Wellington and is dealing w...
The NZTA is being accused of wasting taxpayer money, spending tens of thousands ...
Copyright © 2013 MediaWorks TV. All Rights Reserved.