A hui on water has called on the Government to halt asset sales till it negotiates a deal recognising Maori rights and interests with a new pan-Maori body.
It has also urged Iwi to "stand down" from individual negotiations with the Government on the effect of the sale of shares on the state owned power companies on their Treaty claims. The resolve to present a united front could throw the governments timetable for selling the SOE shares into turmoil.
The hui follows a Waitangi Tribunal report calling on the Government to delay the sale of shares in the State owned power companies till a way to recognise Maori rights and interests in water is agreed.
The tribunal also called for a national water hui, which the Government rejected.
As momentum behind the water issue grows today's gathering turned into a hui of national proportions.
As well as Maori leaders, groups including Kohanga Reo and Maori incorporations are represented, and all political parties except National.
The Maori king closed the hui urging Maori to join forces in their fight over water rights.
In a speech to as many as 1000 of Maoridom's movers and shakers, King Tuheitia said Maori had always owned the water and their rights over the water had been handed down from generation to generation.
"From birth we have been taught that the Waikato river is the life force of my people....simply, it has given life to our people."
But the crystal clear river which he used to swim in as a child was "a degraded body of water".
"From Ngaruawahia out to the sea you cannot swim or take kai from it. This is not the legacy I want to leave for our children."
King Tuheitia called the hui to thrash out a united Maori stand on water.
He told the crowd that when his late mother, Queen Te Atairangikaahu died, her whanau wanted to take her by waka to her final resting place on Taupiri mountain.
They had to get permission from the regional council.
"This is an example of bureaucracy undermining our tikanga."
Even under a river settlement negotiated since with the Government, Tainui did not have management and control over the river, or the power to allocate water. Those functions still sat with the regional council.
"The ultimate goal is for Maori to take back these roles form the council.In the eyes of our people, Pakeha law was set up to minimise our mana and maximise their own. It has stripped from us all those things important to our wellbeing....we have never ceded our mana over the river to anyone."
The King's spokesman, Tukoroirangi Morgan, said the Crown were not invited because today was about Maori.
"This is our time."
But opinion may be divided within Maoridom over whether water rights and interests should be negotiated on an iwi by iwi basis, against those who think they should be negotiated at the national level.
Among the first speakers was Tuwharetoa chairman Sir Tumu te Heuheu, who said any enduring and sustainable framework for the future management of fresh water in New Zealand had to appropriately recognise and provide for the "rights, interests and responsibilities of iwi and hapu in relation to water."
He urged attendees to separate the issues of Maori rights and interests in fresh water from the government's plan to sell power company shares.
"Let us be clear, our rights and interests and responsibilities in relation to water do not just exist on awa and moana that are used by power companies.
"Even on those waterways where the power companies operate, they are one of many consent holders who currently have rights through the resource management regime to use those waters,. We should not allow ourselves to be distracted from this bigger picture by focusing on the mixed ownership model companies. "
Eddie Durie from the Maori Council, which led the claim to the Waitangi Tribunal, said the Government was selling State owned power company shares on the assumption that "nobody has an interest in that water resources".
"Once the shares have been sold we have created a large body of investors strongly opposed to the recognition of Maori interests, because it's going to affect their share value."
He said the Government refused to speak to the Maori Council and preferred to deal instead with the powerful Iwi Leaders Group.
"They're very friendly towards the iwi leaders because they've already got the foot I the door; we've got the door in our face."
The Government has increasingly come to view the Iwi Leaders Group - representing the country's biggest and wealthiest iwi who have already settled their historic Treaty settlements - as the defacto Treaty partner.
But there was an undercurrent of resentment at today's hui at the Government's closed door negotiations with the Iwi Leaders Group.
There was applause when activist Annette Sykes accused the government of "elitism" for the way it selected which Maori leaders it spoke to.
"It is not the way of the Maori world."
Nga Puhi spokesman Sonny Tau said the hui had to answer "how are we going to identify those rights that we talk about".
"Let's sit down and talk this thing through together. We are not going to go anywhere divided."
He was scathing of the Government.
"We must stop the political cannibalism; your appetite for Maori flesh is insatiable, you must stop feeding our cultural invaders with the necessary weaponry that they've turned on us to use today."
Meanwhile, Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson has confirmed the Crown is poised to trigger the relativity clause in Ngai Tahu and Tainui Treaty settlements, likely to be worth as much as $100 million to each tribe.
The clause is triggered when the value of Treaty settlements passes $1 billion under a deal that the value of each tribe's settlement would always be worth between 16 and 17 per cent of the total.
Pending settlements, including a $170m deal for Tuhoe and others due to be signed are likely to add $400m-plus to the $1b cap.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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