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Key: Government won't go to water hui

DANYA LEVY
Last updated 12:34 05/09/2012

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Prime Minister John key says the Government will not attend a hui called by the Maori King over water rights because it rejects calls for a national water settlement.

Key also made it clear none of his MPs should attend the hui because that would cause confusion about them representing the Crown.

King Tuheitia has convened a national hui on water rights after the Government ruled out responding to a Waitangi Tribunal request for it to do so. It will be held at the Turangawaewae Marae at Ngaruawahia next week.

But Key made it clear today the Government would not be involved.

"The Government does not believe there should be a national hui; does not believe there should be a national settlement and it probably would not recognise all of the rights and interests that some Maori groups believe they have," Key said.

He also made it clear National's Maori MPs should turn down any invitation.

"If the Crown was to be represented at the hui, and it wont be, because we've said were not having a national hui, we don’t support that…if you are an MP in the government you represent the Crown and any representation by my MPs at such an event would be interpreted as representation by the Crown.

‘‘I've made that position absolutely crystal clear..I do not accept the view that there needs to be a national hui, because I do not accept there will be a national settlement, because I do not accept it’s a national issue."

Key's categorical rejection of a national hui reflects mounting frustration from the Government that its proposed asset sales programme has become bound up in broader Maori water right claims and a bid for a pan-Maori water settlement, along the lines of fisheries, spectrum, aquaculture and other pan-Maori deals.

In those cases, Maori have won 20 per cent allocation of the likes of fisheries quota, but the Government rejects the view that anyone owns the water.

Key said today there had been a "conflation of issues" over the Waitangi Tribunal report on whether the Crown should halt its float of State owned power company shares till water rights issues affecting some iwi had been resolved.

The Government was of the view that none of those rights and interests were affected by the sale of SOE shares and that was the narrow point on which it was consulting with some iwi.

HUI 'WILL UNITE MAORI'

King Tuheitia's spokesman Tuku Morgan today said the hui would unite all Maori.

"This national summit is for everyone, to enable all Maori across the political landscape, across the tribal landscape, to come together so we can have a significant discussion about how we expect to resolve in a cohesive way, the issue of the ownership of water," he told Radio New Zealand.

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Labour leader David Shearer today said Key would have to attend the national water hui.

"You can't really have a hui and not have him, or the National Party, turn up."

Negotiations on water rights could not be rushed.

"You can't just push them through in a few weeks and that's what he's trying to do in order to get the asset sales off the ground," he told TV3's Firstline programme.

Meanwhile, the Hawke's Bay iwi Ngati Kahungunu has lodged a claim with the Tribunal over its rights to New Zealand's second largest aquifer. Other claims could also follow the Tribunal's report.

- Stuff

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