Tuesday, November 03, 2020

A headache for the government

For decades, the government has elided its Treaty obligations over water by claiming that no-one owns it (except, in practice, farmers). But last year, the Waitangi Tribunal ruled that water is a taonga, and it belongs to Māori, and invited iwi to bring a test case to prove it in court. The New Zealand Maori Council have already taken up that suggestion. And now, Ngāi Tahu is seeking to establish their rights over most of the South Island's water:

South Island iwi Ngāi Tahu is taking the Crown to court, seeking “rangatiratanga” over all freshwater in its takiwā (area).

The case would seek to establish “shared authority” with the Crown over policy and practice.

Te Rūnanga o Ngā Tahu kaiwhakehaere (chairwoman) Lisa Tumahai said the case against the Crown, lodged in the High Court in Christchurch on Monday, came after generations of being excluded from kaitiakitanga (guardianship) of waterways.

“For too long, governments have talked about addressing these issues but have made piecemeal progress,” said Tumahai. “That is not enough. Now is the time to act.”

Ngāi Tahu is quite clear that they are not interested in conventional property rights. Instead, they are seeking the regulatory power to protect their waterways. But even that is likely to be explosive. Canterbury is the most irrigated area in New Zealand, and ground zero for most of Aotearoa's water problems. And the greedy farmers who profit from sucking the rivers dry and filling them with shit (while poisoning the groundwater with toxic nitrates) are likely to go apeshit at the thought of getting a single drop less. So its going to be a real headache for the government, who are eventually going to have to sort this out with a settlement or legislation. And then there's the prospect of National and/or ACT running a racist hate campaign over it...