June 24, 2016
Water work a treaty breach
A warning from two Victoria University of Wellington academics that the government’s work programme for developing its fresh water allocation policy ignores recent Waitangi Tribunal and Supreme Court decisions on Maori rights to fresh water.
A cabinet paper posted on the Environment Ministry site includes three bottom lines for the work programme:
– nobody owns fresh water;
– there will be no national settlement favouring iwi or hapu over other users;
– and allocation will be determined catchment by catchment based on resource availability, efficiency of use, good industry practice and a positive contribution to regional economic development.
Dr Maria Bargh from Victoria’s Te Kawa a Maui School of Maori Studies and senior law lecturer Dr Carwyn Jones say all three bottom lines would lead to Treaty of Waitangi breaches.
They say they also run directly counter to the crown acknowledgement in the 2013 New Zealand Maori Council case before the Supreme Court that Maori have rights and interests in water and geothermal resources.
It assured the court there would be no disposition or creation of property rights in water without first engaging with iwi.
The Government has appointed a technical advisory group with terms of reference derived from the Cabinet paper to advise on the impact of the proposed options.
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