Impasse inevitable on water rights

00:08, Sep 17 2012

The arm wrestle of an argument over water rights is like watching an accident unfold in slow motion.

You can see what's going to happen but there's nothing that can really be done to stop it.

The National Party and a group of iwi are clearly on a collision course, and the large majority of New Zealanders, Maori and non-Maori, are going to get stuck in the middle.

Last week more than 60 heads of tribes from around New Zealand gathered at Turangawaewae Marae in Ngaruawahia to talk about the status of water in New Zealand.

As with any political gathering, there was plenty of chest puffing and rhetoric, but there were also speakers who weren't afraid to discuss some uncomfortable matters.

Such as, who owns the water in this country? Does anyone own it? And if someone, or some group, did own it, what did that mean?


What blurs the issue is when someone like Tuheitia Paki, the Maori King, says that water has always belonged to Maori, and some people take it as gospel that all Maori agree with him.

This triggers all kinds of emotive and defensive responses.

The iwi leaders are in no rush to make a decision on this matter but the National Party is.

Prime Minister John Key didn't attend the forum at the marae and wants to get on with (partially) selling state assets. In a way, he simply has to. He's promised to do it, because that's one of the main ways the country is going to pay its bills.

There have already been delays in the sales and any further delay, or even change of tack, will be seen as a failure.

An impasse of sorts seems inevitable. As does court action.

It's a potentially ugly situation, with a small group in Maoridom suggesting Key's Government is buddying up with some larger iwi to set a wedge between the groups.

There is plenty more heat left in the debate, as each side comes closer and closer to crashing into each other.

ONE MOE THING: We'll be keeping an eye on a certain Trade Me auction tonight. That's the one belonging to Jerram Tuck, one of the six students who ended up homeless after their flat was deliberately set alight. Jerram's auction for a smoke-damaged jar of Marmite had received a high bid of $215 and 145,000 views as this column was being written. Apart from that interest, there has been some heartening support from students around the country, with all kinds of offers of help. To check out the auction go to and search for "Smokey Marmite".

Manawatu Standard