The issue of water is back on the agenda after the Government agreed to creating a water strategy.
Iwi leaders are taking this matter of significant importance to Māori nationwide for discussion before entering into talks with the Crown at Waitangi this year.
Sonny Tau says, “Water levels on the Mangakāhia in Hokianga and the Bay of Islands are low due to water allocation. We're here today to discuss how Māori can control the waters in their respective areas.”
From the Waitangi Tribunal to the Supreme Court, the views of the respective tribes have been heard with the Māori Council and Iwi Leaders Forum now working inclusively to achieve the main goals.
Willy Te Aho says, “We are seeking ideas and support on whether or not we're following the right path.
By the time we meet before ministers of the Crown at Waitangi in February, we'd like to know we have the backing of all the tribes behind us.”
Despite the Government's stance that no one owns the water, under current law regional councils are charged with maintaining water quality and allocating licences to take water, similar to a property right or ownership of the resource.
These are the problematic issues that iwi leaders will need to challenge but they say there are a number of options for them to pursue the matter both at local government level and directly to Parliament.
Tau says, “They'll have to come round in the end because their own law is telling them they are wrong. If they fail to address that under their law, then they'll have to step aside and let Māori run this country.”
Te Aho says, “The whole matter is being held up due to the Crown not meeting its obligations to covenants that were tabled in the Supreme Court. If it fails to do so, then the door will open to us again to determine our rights and authority over this resource.”
Iwi leaders are to report back on the benefits achieved under the water strategy.