Heavy hitters talk water

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HEARING TIME: Waitangi Tribunal hearing into the freshwater claim held at Te Maungarongo Marae in Ohope. Photo Louis Klaassen D5557-10

ECONOMIC development and commercial interests have been put ahead of the health of the Rangitaiki River, according to Maanu Paul.

Representing the Mataatua District Maori Council, Mr Paul presented his submission to the Waitangi Tribunal hearing at Maungarongo Marae in Ohope last week.

In the submission, Mr Paul said Maori had never ceded their authority over water and, as a result, their “customary rights are still extant”.

Mr Paul said, however, despite this, successive governments over the years had introduced legislation that had a detrimental impact on Maori’s water interests.

He said it was government legislation that had allowed the Tarawera River to be turned from “a crystal-clear, and cherished body of water, black”.

Mr Paul said economic development and private commercial interests were put ahead of the health of the Rangitaiki River with the installation of the Matahina Dam and three hydro-electric schemes.

“Again, our experience has been that private commercial interests and development have overridden the health of our river, and our customary rights and interests in water.

Mr Paul said he did not believe bodies like the Rangitaiki River Forum were an adequate form of “co-management”.

“I would expect co-management to include, at the very least, decisions such as the issuing of resource consents, not merely the writing up of a document, if at all, which only needs to be recognised and provided for.

“It is not, to my mind, management of our water. It would be more fitting to call it an advisory committee.”

Lawyer Moana Jackson told the panel, led by Chief Judge Wilson Isaac, that he believed the Crown had breached the Treaty of Waitangi.

He said the proposed reforms to the Resource Management Act were potentially also a breach of the Treaty.

“Te Tiriti does not grant the Crown any authority, neither kawanatanga nor tino rangatanga, over Maori resources and people. Rather … the parties agreed to a relationship: one in which they and Hobson were to be equal – equal while having different roles and different spheres of influence.

“In essence, rangatira retained their authority over their hapu and territories, while Hobson was given authority to control Pakeha.”
Maori activist Titewhai Harawira made her submission as the Tamaki Makaurau District Maori Council chairwoman. She said they did not accept the freshwater management regime was consistent with the Treaty.

“The water belongs to us and we have our own tikanga (laws) to manage it. We would do a lot better job at looking after our [water] than this Crown has done – that’s for sure.”

The hearing was part of the second stage of a Treaty of Waitangi claim into freshwater.

In March 2012, the Waitangi Tribunal granted an application for an urgent hearing into two claims about Maori proprietary rights in freshwater bodies and geothermal resources.

The first claim relates to the Crown’s policy to privatise four state-owned power companies without first protecting or providing for Maori rights in water resources and the second is about the Government’s resource management reforms.

Stage one of the hearings began in July 2012 and the tribunal found there was a nexus between the asset to be transferred and the Maori claim to rights in the water used by the state-owned companies sufficient to require a halt if the sale would put the issue of rights recognition and remedy beyond the Crown’s ability to deliver.

karla.akuhata@whakatanebeacon.co.nz

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