Iwi-Kiwi theme set to return in campaign over water rights

A planned campaign over water rights revives the "iwi-Kiwi" theme from  foreshore and seabed days
NZCPR

A planned campaign over water rights revives the "iwi-Kiwi" theme from foreshore and seabed days

A political think-tank is set to revive the "Iwi-Kiwi" advertising theme to highlight what it claims is a plan to give Maori water rights by stealth.

The New Zealand Centre for Political Research (NZCPR) established by former ACT MP Muriel Newman in 2005 is planning advertisements, featured on its website, showing water being poured from a glass marked "Kiwi" into one marked "Iwi".

It echoes a notorious 2005 National Party advertisement, during the height of the furore over the foreshore and seabed, which showed National backed "Kiwi" while Labour backed "Iwi" over ownership of the beaches.

Ministers rejected a nationwide 'Waterlords' settlement over water - along the lines of the Sealords deal over Maori commercial fishing claims - earlier this year. But they left open the way to possible "catchment by catchment" deals at a regional government level. The Crown has acknowledged Maori interests and rights in freshwater but their extent and nature is at issue. 

NZCPR claims the Government is complying with an ultimatum from Iwi leaders to "surrender control of the nation's fresh water to Maori tribes within a year".

It said the government met iwi leaders in April to work out how to "manage the surrender".

They had decided to hand control to iwi at regional council level, catchment by catchment, council by council.

The plan was to let councils "sneak iwi water control clauses into complex fresh water management plans".

It also pointed to an August memorandum of understanding between iwi leaders and Local Government New Zealand, which acknowledged "the mana and kaitiakitangi status of iwi over the nation's land and natural resources".

NZCPR associate, Canterbury University Law lecturer David Round, said there was no legal, moral or common sense justification for any Maori claim to fresh water.

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The secrecy around a water deal was reminiscent of the recently-signed Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal. "It's all under cover, which is enough to make you deeply suspicious in the first place."

"It seems to me incomprehensible why they would be going down this path. ... The courts have never said Maori have any rights in water ... that is based on nothing more than the reports of the Waitangi Tribunal which is an entirely biased lobby group," he said. "If (Finance Minister) Bill English were simply to say to the iwi leaders' group sod off, water is public property' most of the country would cheer National to the echo."

He said the Iwi-Kiwi theme was "an excellent line" but water was more important that the foreshore and seabed.

"This is life. You can't do without it. A bit of beach here or there - though that was a serious issue - is nothing by comparison with the Maori right to water in every single place in the country."

But English rejected the claims in the advertisement and its "tone".

"One of the Government's bottom lines is no national settlement," he said.

"Maori in general don't have rights.  Any rights or responsibilities are local, are about particular waterways."

The Government was working through what mana and kaitiakitanga meant in relation to water, but iwi were not making unreasonable demands.

Maori interests, the Government and the community wanted "pretty similar things."

The big issues were nitrate pollution, the demand for water, the intensification of land use and the purity of water.

"That's not a Maori issue, that's a general one."

He said the NZCPR advertisement was "more focused on the theories, not quite so much on solving the genuine issues".

"While conceptually these issues are difficult, in practice they've turned out to be able to be resolved."

A discussion document set to be released late this year could now be unveiled in 2016.

Asked about the use of the Iwi-Kiwi theme in the campaign, English said: "That's up to them. If they've got a strong point of view they've got every right to put it."

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 - Stuff

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