Who will own NZ's water?

Pure sparkling fresh water – turn on the tap and there it is. It’s our God given right, the lifeblood, the new oil it seems, even here in New Zealand.

But who owns the water, and are the government about to surrender control of the nation’s fresh water to Maori?

David Round of the New Zealand Centre for Political Research. Photo: Supplied.

The New Zealand Centre for Political Research would have us believe that’s the case. It has advertised in the nation’s newspapers saying iwi leaders issued an ultimatum to government to hand over water to Maori tribes within a year.

“And believe it or not, the government is complying,” says the ad.

“That is extreme and pretty silly,” says MP for Tauranga and Minister of Energy and Resources Simon Bridges.

The NZCPR is led by former Act MP, Dr Muriel Newman.

“She and her friends made similar claims at the time of the foreshore and seabed,” says Simon. “They got a lot of people worked up then, and they have been proved wrong.

“This is just more scare-mongering – another stunt.”

But David Round of the NZCPR says we should be concerned, very concerned.

“Maori, who at other times go on about how no-one can own the water, would accept privatisation if they knew the private hands into which it was going to fall, were theirs.”

David says the government has been working with the iwi – ‘not in secret, but covertly’ – on how to ‘sneak iwi water control clauses into complex fresh water management plans’ through regional councils.

So are Maori claiming ownership?

“No, that’ll never happen,” says Simon. “We have made it very clear no-one owns the water, there are no shares in this resource.”

But he says there are issues with water that have to be sorted – environmental issues such as rules on fencing stock and keeping dairy cows out of our waterways.

The government intends to publish a discussion paper on the future of water next year so iwi, farmers, power companies, concerned citizens, irrigators, and recreational users can see exactly where the government is going.

But David insists Maori will want water for themselves. “If they are involved in managing water, they will make decisions that are going to favour them,” he says.

“If it involves granting water rights to other people, it will involve Maori clipping the ticket.

“Pardon my cynicism, but it seems to be a very real possibility.”

Tamati Kruger of Ngai Tuhoe believes the debate over ownership of the nation’s water is unhelpful to humanity and the environment.

“It should be about quality and sustainability. It’s everyone’s responsibility,” he says. But he admits there are issues that need addressing.

“Somehow the crown has laid claim to ownership of water and we need to know how that happened? Also the crown has given its subsidiaries, councils all over New Zealand, the right to meter and sell water. How did they get that mandate?”

Tamati also says a lot of people get a lot of water and don’t pay for it, like farmers.  

David says at present, water is not owned by anyone and is administered by democratically-elected councils responsible to the public and administered for the public benefit.

“But what is being proposed here, inevitably, is that Maori are going to have a greater share in the administration of water than their population and interests entitles them to.”

Simon is sure the NZCPR believes what it says. “They just happen to be wrong,” he says.

And just like his neighbours, he too wants to visit lakes and rivers whenever he chooses. “And not pay iwi for the right to do so. We just wouldn’t get involved in that silly sort of stuff.”

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kiwis are being sold down the river

Posted on 03-12-2015 20:19 | By ROCCO

Simon Backflipper for heavens sake face reality. The stark evidence is that your National Govt. is intent one way or another in rorting all kiwis over this charade.


Posted on 30-11-2015 19:37 | By Fonzie

is not the only issue Maori tribes want control of water resources Unelected undemocratic tribal control thats the issue


Posted on 30-11-2015 19:26 | By Carcass

Hello Simon what about the claim over all the prime recreational fishing spots off Mount Maunganui and Maketu by Motiti Maori Trustee’s and you ask us to believe you on the water issues

Fresh water

Posted on 30-11-2015 19:21 | By Christina2

How come the story goes that the decision-making has been handed to the BOPRC to make the hard decisions on water rights and management from the government? On the BOPRC website it talks about Maori and Co governance and ownership. Also Maori have a specific site of their own and the rest of us another site, I call this apartheid! If the National Party doesn

Water Supply costs

Posted on 30-11-2015 18:19 | By flipper

I hate to say it but if Maori think it is wrong to charge for supplying a service then they are still living in the 1800’s. Council has not only just started charging for water as suggested, they have simply changed the method. There was already a universal charge, meters just make it fairer - use more pay more - or User Pays! This is nothing new so if they want to drink rain water they are free to move to the cheaper availability fee which represents the cost of getting the infrastructure to go past their doors for when they come to their senses.


Posted on 30-11-2015 12:57 | By overit

I am sure the Foreshore/Seabed issue is not over yet. Tuhoe wants to self-govern etc. Where and when will this appeasing Maori end? And Simon I don’t believe you either!

Water is not owned

Posted on 30-11-2015 12:26 | By Ron

Water is free but you must expect to pay for the service which delivers clean water to several rooms in your home and business and takes away the waste. If someone else wants to provide that service then by all means go for it.

Simon does as he is told

Posted on 30-11-2015 11:55 | By Captain Sensible

Simon Bridges is the lap dog of John Key. The NZCPR were not proved wrong over the seabed and foreshore, so Simon is already telling porkies. Simon tows the party line to extend his own career.

in the cloud

Posted on 30-11-2015 10:19 | By hapukafin

Water comes from rain held in the cumulus clouds so they own it

Simon bridges

Posted on 30-11-2015 08:17 | By Kenworthlogger

Sorry mate, i do not believe you.....you and your polly mates have caved long time ago...

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