Maori unity over water may already be splintering.
Forty-five of Maoridom's most powerful leaders yesterday gathered at Ngaruawahia in the wake of a hui convened by King Tuheitia - and later made it clear they were not going to be rolled by a new pan-Maori body in any discussions with the Crown over Maori rights and interests in water.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister John Key flatly rejected the claim by King Tuheitia that Maori had always owned the water.
“In law he's just plain wrong; all the advice we've had is that the common law position is the correct position, which is that no-one owns water.”
Mr Key also rejected meeting a pan-Maori body ahead of individual iwi with water claims - and reiterated that there would be no national settlement on water.
The Government was earlier this month forced to delay the sale of shares in state-owned power companies after the Waitangi Tribunal said it would be a breach of the Treaty to proceed.
The king's hui on Thursday ended in apparent overwhelming support for a resolution calling on negotiations with the Crown over Maori rights and interests in water to happen before individual negotiations with iwi and hapu, and before the sale of shares in state-owned power companies.
There also appeared to be overwhelming support for the establishment of a pan-Maori body representing broad Maori interests, including the Maori Women's Welfare League, the kohanga reo movement, the Maori Council and others appointed by an eminent group, including Tuwharetoa head Sir Tumu te Heuheu.
But the Iwi Leaders Group yesterday issued a statement confirming a resolution had been passed unanimously endorsing the Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group and its continued engagement with the Crown.
Meanwhile, Sir Tumu said he was not even in the room when the vote was taken - and had nothing to do with his name being put forward. He confirmed that he would not be nominating anyone for such a body.
He was not the only iwi leader who appears to have been absent during the vote.
Organiser Tukoroirangi Morgan described the 1000-strong gathering for the king's hui as the A-list of Maoridom, but it appears many of the A-listers had left the room before the resolutions were put to the floor.
Despite there being few dissenting voices at the time, there were angry words behind closed doors at yesterday's iwi leaders gathering over being told to “stand down” from their individual negotiations till a pan-Maori body had been set up. The decision not to be in the room for the vote may have been deliberate, to avoid offending King Tuheitia.
But it leaves many of the hui's resolutions up in the air, with the iwi leaders insisting they are yet to be ratified by their people.
And after yesterday's meeting, the Iwi Leaders Group - through which the Government prefers to deal on high level Treaty issues - appears to have reasserted itself.
That its future appeared to be on a knife edge after the king's hui was confirmed by Sir Tumu yesterday.
“Last night we weren't quite sure whether the Iwi Leaders Group would still be in existence. But there is still a strong perspective that the work that's being done, the negotiations that have been undertaken, are hugely important to be advanced.”
The iwi leaders have agreed on a framework for recognising Maori rights and interests in water, including decision-making power over water use, being able to fairly share in the economic benefits of the use of water and allocating water according to set rules and limits. It follows four years of discussions with the Crown - but Sir Tumu acknowledged yesterday the Crown was yet to put anything “tangible” on the table in those talks.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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