Establish a national commission or sit alongside regional councils? That is the question regarding water allocation rights, a major issue facing the government this year.
Also water allocation and water usage, who decides? These are other pressing questions at hand around the water rights debate.
Sir Toby Curtis says, “If a commission is established, there is no doubt that some who will sit on that commission will have no connection to specific water areas. For example, if a Te Arawa descendant sat on that commission, who is he to speak on water issues in Ngāpuhi? Water issues in Ngāti Porou?”
The Māori Council believes a commission is the best approach, while the Iwi Chairs Forum believes in sitting alongside regional councils.
Sir Taihakurei Durie says, “We don't think that can be done by local authority and iwi working together to come to an agreement. It means setting standards on exactly the same basis as fish allocation was developed.”
Sir Curtis says, “I appreciate what the Māori Council is saying but they are late in the piece with their position. We have already been working on this matter and have been doing so for about four years now.”
Despite it not being a major focus, both groups say the issue of financial revenue must also be discussed.
“They are profiting from the sale of water use amongst themselves. What we are saying is we need to sit down and discuss that side of the issue to do with water as well,” says Sir Curtis.
“We would expect income to come in from that commission, a proportion to go to Māori people because of their customary association with the rivers so that they are able to engage their own people,” says Sir Durie.
This year will see the commencement of Part II of the Waitangi Tribunal hearing into water rights.
It has almost been three years since the Māori Council lodged the case.