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Iwi and the riverbeds

Written By: - Date published: 8:51 am, July 3rd, 2012 - 15 comments
Categories: energy, Maori Issues, maori party, national, Privatisation - Tags: , , ,

The only remaining possible legal threat to the Nats’ plans to sell off our power companies is a Treaty based claim to water rights or riverbeds:

Maori party co-leader Tariana Turia is calling on iwi to investigate claiming the ownership of riverbeds around the country.

The water from them is critical to the power companies that the Government is putting up for sale, and Ms Turia says Maori should particularly consider claiming ownership of the riverbed along the Waikato and Whanganui Rivers.

Her call follows a ruling the Supreme Court made last week about a stretch of the Waikato River at Pouakani, near Mangakino. The ruling declared Crown ownership of the riverbed was null and void, which means ownership could be open to claims by Whanganui tribes. …

Mighty River Power is the first asset for sale and has eight dams and nine power stations along the Waikato River, three dams of which are within the area of the current claim. Genesis energy is next up, and relies on water from the Whanganui River.
Such uncertainty about the ownership of the riverbeds critical to the first two asset sales could not have possibly come at a more inconvenient time for the Government.

Much as I would like to see a spanner thrown in the privatisation works, and much as I respect iwi’s rights to pursue whatever claims they think are valid, I do have worries about the possibility of such claims progressing. Is the country ready for “Foreshore and Seabed 2: The Riverbeds”?… Out comes the conservative race card, and NZ is plunged into another round of divisive turmoil. What cost the damage? On the other hand, should fear of a backlash prevent iwi from progressing a claim that they think is valid? No simple answers.

My guess is that the Nats are leaning on the Maori Party very hard behind the scenes, and that nothing will ever come of this. But anything could happen, and if a claim is made we are guaranteed “interesting” times ahead…

15 comments on “Iwi and the riverbeds”

  1. millsy 1

    Not to mention that iwi ownership is also privatisation and all the pitfalls that come with private ownership of a common resource, ie the kiwi swim in the river being a thing of the past.

    • Depends whether what Iwi would be after would be “ownership” of the actual riverbeds or interests in their commercial exploitation and customary usage rights.

  2. Carol 2

    Yes, I was puzzled about the consequences of this (possible) stand by Iwi, and whether it hinders asset sales or is just a tussle over who benefits most from privatisation.

    Are Iwi just using some leverage so they can benefit significantly from the asset sales? And would it benefit the Iwi as a whole, or just the Iwi elite?

    I though this issue would have got more headlines this morning, but, instead, the government has gone with the ETS withdrawal as a headline-grabber.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.1

      And would it benefit the Iwi as a whole, or just the Iwi elite?

      IMO, the Maori Party now flies the same colours as the National Party which means that what they do doesn’t benefit the average Maori, just the Maori Elites. Just as whatever National does doesn’t benefit NZ, just the rich.

  3. Kevin Welsh 3

    Even if they did win the case for ownership of the water rights and river bed, all that will happen is a nice fat dividend will be paid to the appropriate iwi each year, that we will pay for it through higher prices.

    It will not stop the sales.

  4. Tainui are the really interesting players in this.  They have their own settlement concerning the Waikato River and this gives them significant potential powers over such things as the granting of consents.
    Tainui has declined to take part in the application to the Waitangi Tribunal concerning water rights.  They decided to do this as they thought their rights were protected and when you read the Waikato-Tainui Raupatu CLaims (Waikato River) Settlement Act 2010 you get a feeling for the sort of power Tainui potentially has.

  5. Populuxe1 5

    The main drawback is that the big iwi are no more ethical, transparent or socially minded than any other big corporate. I would love to see a way of giving Maori some sort of rights ownership that bypassed the iwi completely.

    • weka 5.1

      I don’t know how it works with other iwi, but with Kai Tahu at least, there is a division between the corporate and the iwi. The commercial aspects are run by a separate business, Ngai Tahu Holdings Corporation. I think NTHC takes instruction from the runaka in some areas but generally operates as a distinct entity for the most part. I would welcome correction on that if I’ve got it wrong, or even just more detail.

      Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu was established by the Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu Act 1996 and services the tribe’s statutory rights and ensures that the benefits of the Settlement are enjoyed by Ngāi Tahu whānui now and in the future.

      Throughout the South Island there are 18 local rūnanga. An elected representative from each of rūnanga makes up Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, the governing body overseeing the tribe’s activities.

      The executive functions of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu are carried out by:

      Office of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu which manages administration and monitoring and delivers social and cultural programmes

      Ngāi Tahu Holdings Corporation Limited which manages commercial activities

      Because of that I’m not sure that iwi can be considered to be wholly private entities. TRONT is a governing body, democratically elected to represent its constituency. In reality I don’t know if Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu can function as a government, akin to local body government perhaps. I am interested in the idea that they could, and that their interests might serve (most of) the South Island well. On the other hand I see NTHC doing the same old crap that lots of big businesses do.
      I also know that some local Maori are critical of TRONT, esp in terms of how the trickle down ain’t working that well, so I’m not saying that we have a functional model. Just that it’s worth considering that there may be other ways of looking at iwi ‘ownership’, than just seeing them as private business.
      There is an irony too, in that afaik in order to access treaty settlements, iwi were required to form legal bodies that satisfied NZ society. In that sense we can’t complain too much when they then act like the rest of NZ society.
      That’s all from my limited knowledge, so again, someone please correct me where I am getting that wrong. I am, as always, gobsmacked by how little I, and the pakeha society around me, know about these things.

  6. Matthew 6

    I would rather Iwi owned the riverbeds than the Bank of America. Could it be that the Treaty of Waitangi becomes the saviour of NZ assets? Also, I suspect NACT can lean on the Maori Party as much as they like, Pita & Tariana have absolutely no mana left in Maoridom.

  7. Barry 7

    The claim to the riverbeds is a result of the government trying to sell them. This is part of a pattern. Every so often the government sells or gives away something it doesn’t own and creates the opening for such claims.

    The foreshore and seabed claim rose form Marlborough council granting rights to shellfish famrs and then refusing an iwi bid.

    The Sealord settlement rose from the government giving away fishing quota.

    Maori TV came about because the government wanted to sell radio spectrum.

    While the power companies are publicly owned nobody thinks too much about the value of their water rights. Selling the companies puts an obvious value on the rights and makes people think about how they were obtained.

  8. bad12 8

    If as Tu Whare Toa, Tainui, and, the Whanganui Iwi were at 1840 sovereign entities each ruled by tribal kaupapa and Ariki then as is suggested by the Crown wishing to make Treaty with them all everything within the tribal rohe must have come under the direct jurisdiction of the relevant Ariki,

    The actual realities and concepts of ‘ownership’ may have at 1840 differed markedly between Pakeha and Maori, but both undisturbed use of fisheries,and,Rangatiratanga would suggest to me that ‘everything’ within the agreed rohe as defined by the various tribes would in fact be ‘owned’ by those various tribes, especially when lakes rivers and streams can not only be considered to be fishery’s but also the means that enabled transportation,

    It is of course inconvenient in the year 2012 for Maori to have come to examine, (again),the issue of ownership of lakes and rivers that sit upon and flow through their various rohe, BUT, this is hardly ‘new take’ for Maori as the grievance has year after year simmered under the radar of mainstream,(ie, Pakeha), concerns,

    The real question in my mind is ‘how did the Crown come to have legal jurisdiction over these rivers and lakes’???,

    If such legal jurisdiction by the Crown were not by legitimate purchase or by agreement of the various tribes within who’s rohe these rivers and lakes sit then there seems a more than reasonable argument that the jurisdiction exercised by the Crown has no real basis of legality…

    • muzza 8.1

      “The real question in my mind is ‘how did the Crown come to have legal jurisdiction over these rivers and lakes’???,”

      –Come on B12, don’t go asking such obvious questions. The whole legal system is little more than a sham, fronted by peoples minds having been bent to believe that the legal fictions which we are “directed” to live under are in fact real, they are nothing of the sort.

      No entity, body, government, iwi or whatever you want to call it, has legal jurisdiction over any land water, sky, animal or human being, its simply not possible once people think about it. Private ownership does not even exist in reality. We cant’ own what is not ours…We are all just visitors, but its amazing how the concepts of ownership, and legal systems etc have evolved in the minds of people.

      We are a very primitive speices, we can tell this by how the planet is run, and functions, and how people allow it to be run, by letting their true self be hidden/taken by the constructs trapping us in this “twisted reality”, all invented by men of course!

      So about who owns what then…..

      • Grumpy 8.1.1

        Muzza, love your work……….

      • bad12 8.1.2

        All societies, including Maori pre-colonization had and have a system of rules,(laws), within which most of the inhabitants agree to live,

        Should the majority of the population of any society disagree with the rules,(usually),imposed by some form of hierarchy then that hierarchy is at some stage removed,

        As stated in my previous post, Maori and Pakeha may have had at 1840 different views on ‘ownership’ and while present day Maori might not happily agree with what ‘ownership’ transpires to be in the year 2012 both colonization and evolution have had Maori adhere to the Pakeha model of ‘ownership’,

        Personally i cannot fault Maori where they interface with the Pakeha hierarchy for doing so based upon the premise of how that hierarchy views and administers property rights,

        Your view of course is anarchic and doesn’t seem to have been the norm since stone age pre-history…

        • weka

          But agreements between different peoples on how land and resources get used and cared for is a different thing than modern European concepts of ownership.
          I agree with muzza. Except I would add that ‘ownership’ is established by who has the biggest gun.

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