Waitangi Tribunal rules against Government over asset sales

The Waitangi Tribunal’s interim ruling on the water rights issue claims iwi taonga rights will be trampled on if the partial sale of the power companies goes ahead.

The Tribunal has, as expected, found that Maori have rights to water once it has been “commercialised” by passing through a power turbine. It says an allocation of shares will not be compensation enough, and that to honour the Treaty the Government should give iwi a say in running the power companies.

“The Tribunal found that the proprietary right guaranteed to hapu and iwi by the Treaty in 1840 was the exclusive right to control access to and use of the water while it was in their rohe. The closest English equivalent in 1840 was ownership; the closest New Zealand law equivalent today is residual property rights,” said the Tribunal in a statement this afternoon.

“The Tribunal expressly records that, although there has been much criticism of Māori in making this claim, the Tribunal considers that property rights and their protection go to the heart of a just legal system. This includes the right of all New Zealanders to use their proprietary rights, to develop them, and to profit from their use. This is not an opportunistic claim.

“The issue of ownership of water was advanced by the Crown as a deal breaker, but in the Tribunal’s view it need not be. The Tribunal observes that New Zealand is a strong country partly because of its commitment to biculturalism and to the mutual respect and accommodation of Māori and non-Māori rights. Māori culture cannot be relegated and the rights that arise from that culture cannot be ignored.”