Editorial: Wind claim no joke

19:47, Sep 11 2012

Last Tuesday an email landed in the inbox with the subject line: Wind to be subject of next Treaty claim.

It was released by a David Rankin, who described himself as a Ngapuhi political commentator and Hone Heke Foundation chairman.

I alerted the news editor to the email, saying we should be careful about any subsequent story.

I thought the email was a hoax.

Turns out it wasn't. A week on and David Rankin has attracted national attention with his claim, which he describes as pre-emptive in case state-owned wind farms ever feature on the asset sales radar.

Says he: "Traditionally, the wind was regarded as a deity in Maori society, and Maori do not consider the Crown have the right to use it without Maori consent."

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Hmm. That's his opinion.

That said, you can see how a link can be made between the water rights argument presently before the Waitangi Tribunal and Mr Rankin's wind one.

Both can be termed resources, Maori have traditionally used both, you can measure both, and, crucially, you can make money from both. It's no more a leap than the rights over the airwaves, to which the Waitangi Tribunal ruled Maori had rights back in 1998 and which led to iwi radio stations and a Maori television channel.

Just because you can't bottle or box wind doesn't mean you can't quantify it and therefore lay claim to it.

Except most people would react as I first did, and consider this a joke.

If Maori can claim rights to wind, why not fire? Why not the tides? Or, as the prime minister has raised, sunlight?

Arguments could be made for each, and once lawyers and the courts become involved, who knows what might happen, which would be divisive, and detrimental ultimately to Maori.

Maori have wider support for their water rights claims because of the handbrake they are applying to state asset sales, but claims on wind undermine that support.

Mr Rankin is not helping Maori here. Critics will not single him out, but instead, unfairly, will lump all Maori together, with words like greedy and ridiculous and inflammatory.

And this is the same Mr Rankin who, in July, criticised those tribes claiming water rights, describing it as pure greed. "This (water rights) is not about culture, it is all about profit and personal gains . . . it is only the elite few manipulating the masses who get to enjoy the money that flows from these settlements."

He's had a change of mind, obviously.

He's even suggested Maori have rights over aerospace, which makes you wonder what's next. The moon? Happiness? Clothing?

Which has me thinking. Let's say I could prove the nor-westers we've experienced of late originated in Ireland, could I sell my ancestral share to Meridian Energy?

Or is that just silly?

The Timaru Herald