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Key on water rights: Treaty issues already well-known by investors; Courts unlikely to rule authoritatively that Maori own water

Key on water rights: Treaty issues already well-known by investors; Courts unlikely to rule authoritatively that Maori own water

Issues raised by the Treaty of Waitangi are already well-known to investors in New Zealand, Prime Minister John Key says.

The government has been trying to downplay the possible impact of any court action taken by Maori over water rights ahead of the partial float of State-owned Mighty River Power (MRP), which has nine hydro power stations on the Waikato River.

This comes after the Waitangi Tribunal last week began to hear claims led by the Maori Council that Maori had ownership of water and rights to use water. The Council argued the sale of MRP should not go ahead until the question of who owned water in New Zealand was answered.

Read more about the claims, Wai 2357 and Wai 2358, here. The hearing continues this week.

While the Tribunal's decision was not binding on the government, the Maori Council indicated it was likely to follow the case up through the courts. Key said the government thought such substantive court action could take "years and years and years" to complete.

It was "very unlikely" a court would say authoritatively that Maori had ownership of water, Key said.

Speaking on Newstalk ZB on Monday morning, Key said the government believed forums like the Land and Water Forum, or work with Maori on co-management of waterways, were the right places to debate the issue, not in court.

Key said his comments last week that the government might ignore any Waitangi Tribunal recommendation on water rights were not made to wind people up.

“We might listen to them, but we also might not, and the government’s very long held view has been, no one owns water," he said.

Key said he thought it was very unlikely a court would actually say authoritatively that Maori owned water.

“The reason for that is, that the common law position that’s been established is that they don’t, and that’s in a number of jurisdictions," Key said.

“It is possible but it would be very unlikely," he said.

“The second thing is, they would have to go through what’s called a substantive hearing. In other words, hear all the interests. That could quite frankly take years and years and years.”

If there was a fundamental change and a decision by a court in a decade’s time that Maori owned water, that could potentially have a cost for Mighty River Power. However it would for every business and household in New Zealand. Mighty River, like everyone else, would have to deal with that at the time.

“Whether it would increase its power prices for instance, to cover that additional cost, who knows how they would deal with that?" Key said.

Issues relating to Maori and the Treaty were well-established in New Zealand, and New Zealand investors knew about those issues.

"And look, Contact Energy’s on the market. It’s been a successful float for a long period of time. They also use water. So it wouldn’t be unique to Mighty River Power," Key said.

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12 Comments

Carrying government spin now, Bernard?

"the government’s very long held view has been, no one owns water"
Key is on dangerous grounds with this statement. Posession IS ownership. The big hydro companies have their right to use this water protected by the law. You can't just set up another dam upstream - they do, in fact, have ownership.
That's OK I guess, and necassary for them to operate but Key is planning on disposing to private parties what is now the common property of all Kiwis - rights in perpetuity to a national resource. That's where I have a problem and good on the Maori for raising the issue

There has been a referendum on asset sales. It was called the general election and everyone had their opportunity to have a say. National campaigned on it for most of last year.
Could it be that in returning National to office it indicates people are not as opposed to asset sales as the opposition might have us believe ?
 

Speak for yourself Snippy.
 
I can't wait to buy some mighty river.
 
Also a bit unfair to say he's serving himself. He was already financially secure when he became PM and donates his entire salary to charity. We need his common sense leadership, he doesn't need us. Thankfully NZ agrees with me and not you, as they're still polling between 45-50%, the biggest party by 15%.

Exactly!

Bugger, I'm 70% water.  Does that mean they own me?

will owning the water create any jobs for young maori apart from the leaders who are doing rather well from these treaty claims

Well, if you disenfranchise them, they'll end up underwater.

Maori should not just stop at Water - why not the Clouds ?  that way they could claim ownership of every transaction involving cloud computing - now theres a money spinner for the whanau !

I actually suspect that Maori are going to be the saviour of this country.

I don't know Scarfie......have Maori not become a corporation of sorts called "Maoridom"? who also aim at 'profit' , hence still ......so many poor maori at the bottom of the maoridom pyramid even after the hand over of nearly 30 BILLION worth in assets the past two decades

What a complete crock of sh.. why cant the government just tell the truth- viz;  that the "Grievance Machine"  has run out of freebies for the poor down trodden natives and anyone claiming to own  water - be it fresh or otherwise, is simply a head case and not worth listening to in any way shape of form !! 

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