One of the things that makes politicians lives easier is that we all have a tendency to believe what we want to believe, and thus to hear what we want to hear. Some politicians play on this tendency by telling different groups different things – what they want to hear – knowing that each group will disregard the messages to other groups.
That’s where we are on the water rights debate. As well covered last week, the Maori Party believes that Key has promised that the government “will not legislate away their rights and interests over water”. But subsequently it was reported:
PM: Govt could legislate against court finding on water
Prime Minister John Key said today he did not think the claim Maori own water would make it to court but in theory the Government could legislate against a finding by a court that Maori do own water. …
Water ownership remains ill defined
Unless the Maori Party and the Government agree on what ownership means, its concession in the joint statement is meaningless.
And whatever agreements they reach, they have no control over other Maori to claim ownership rights over specific waters and have the courts uphold them.
And unless the Maori Party and the Government are in agreement about the rights and interests that hapu and iwi have in water, the Government’s pledge “not to legislate over those rights and interests” is meaningless.
There has been no indication from the Maori Party that they are going to seek further clarification from Key. It looks like they are going to be content to believe in their own interpretation of what Key said (disregarding all the other mixed messages).
They should know better, we’ve been here before, when the Maori Party believed they had been promised a range of concessions, and found out that Key had taken them for a ride.
On that experience alone the Maori Party should be seeking urgent clarification of what Key’s “promise” means. They won’t, because they are very comfortable indeed, believing exactly what they want to believe.