Politics | Water

Co-governance still coming because Māori own the water

Maori can’t be shut out of water governance because they own most of it.

That’s according to iwi leaders, who say National politicians shutting down co-governance on water bodies is pointless because they are sure water ownership will end up in the courts.

The government is determined to drive the Three Waters repeal through by the middle of next year but Māori leaders say they are determined to test their rights to the management of water in the courts.

Waikato-Tainui’s Te Arataura chairman, Tukuroirangi Morgan, says Māori no longer have a voice because the councils will have the upper hand when it comes to decisions on water.

He says the government is being ignorant “in not working toward a more conciliatory path where we can work together with the councils”.

He says the biggest problem is that the councils are strapped for cash.

National plans to disestablish the new water entities, keeping water assets in councils’ hands. Labour’s original plan to create four mega-entities, which would take on assets, and fund infrastructure replacement debt, and a second version creating 10 entities, is now dead in the water.

Local Government Minister Simeon Brown is adamant about the government’s decision to repeal: “The flawed one-size-fits-all approach would have burdened councils and it would not have delivered what counclls need.”

Brown says water delivery is a local government job. “They are responsible for this infrastructure. It is our job as a government to provide the foundational policy.”

But Morgan says the councils are in debt; “they can no longer carry out the renewal of clean water, dirty water, or contaminated water. It’s all too hard.”

Former local government ‚minister, Labour MP Kieran McAnulty says the repeal is unnecessary “and irresponsible - and it’s lazy”.

Newly elected Māori MP Takuta Ferris says te ao Māori has the solutions the country needs.

“They are of course not rooted in making money, they are rooted in delivering fresh clean water that will sustain this land and its people and sustain these lands and environment.”

“We, as Māori, argue for our right to have a say about the management of water because we have everyone’s interests at heart.”

Morgan notes that 55 percent of the water going to Tamaki Makaurau “comes from our river and the tributaries of Hunua”.

Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi agrees with Morgan.

“The authority over water is still unresolved, it still sits with the court. Who has the authority over water? Maori do.”

“Tihirau is my mountain, Whangaparaoa is my river, so the water is mine. The same goes for KIngi Tuheitia and the Waikato river, Te Heuheu in Tuwharetoa and Te Arawa and all its lakes.”