Friday, September 14, 2012

So much for "divide and conquer"

The government's response to the Waitangi Tribunal's ruling on water ownership and asset sales was pure "divide and conquer": ignore the wider issue and negotiate iwi by iwi with those directly affected by the sale, in an effort to play them off against one another and get the vertical wealth transfer of asset sales back on track. Now, in the wake of yesterday's national hui at Turangawaewae, that strategy looks to be in ruins:

The meeting resolved that:
* Proprietary rights in water must be settled before the sale of shares in Mighty River Power
* A group should be set up to choose negotiators to deal with the Crown
* If those negotiations fail iwi support a New Zealand Maori Council court challenge.

"The A list of Maoridom were here, the whose who of Maoridom were here - they are part of the decision and they are bound by the decision," said one of the summit chairs, Tuku Morgan, yesterday.

In other words, stand together to get a better deal, rather than letting the government isolate people and pick them off one by one. And that deal will cover not just asset sales, but the broader resource management issues raised by the Land and Water Forum.

The ball is now in the government's court. The representatives of Maoridom have shown what they want. If the government wants to demonstrate good faith, and be a real Treaty partner, it needs to engage with them. And if they don't, then the courts will injunct them until they do. The choice is theirs.