By John Tamihere
This week the news agenda was all about the New Zealand Maori Council Waitangi Tribunal Claim in regard to Maori rights and interests in water. Starting from the fundamentals you cannot profess to be a Maori unless you can acknowledge and claim absolute attachment to your mountain, your river, your lake or your sea. These matters are absolutely fundamental to Maoritanga.
The New Zealand Court of Appeal and Privy Council cases of the late 1980s clearly determined that the Crown represented by the New Zealand Government, have a range of obligations owing to Maori. In fact, without Maori Claims to fisheries, forestries and other assets that were being sold, New Zealand would have far less assets in its hands and the ones that were sold would have been sold for a lot less.
The matter as to water can be best summed up in the words of one Te Arawa witness who stated that as soon as the Crown turns water into a commodity, values it as an asset and then moves to sell 49% of that asset out of the Crown estate, this now breaches the Treaty. Article Three of the Treaty allows the Crown, on behalf of all New Zealanders, to manage strategic assets on behalf of all New Zealanders. The day a Government moves to sell those assets Maori have a right under Article Two of the Treaty to assert their mana over their land, their forestries, their fisheries and all taonga. This is what Maori are claiming.
There cannot be total ownership awarded to Maori, nor will Maori have rights to all water-related issues in the country. Because of the rights that others already hold, Maori have had their rights extinguished. The question is what rights and interests have Maori retained. The Prime Minister has breached our Constitution by predetermining a judicial process. This is unacceptable. The Prime Minister must adhere to the law, otherwise there is no law.
The Prime Minister can massage a few Maori egos at the Iwi Leaders Forum and believe that divide and rule will work in 2012 New Zealand. There is a growing and large gap between these Iwi leaders and their big iwi cheque books and the obligations that they have to their people. In fact, a new brown elite has developed and is willing to do dirty deals behind the scenes with Ministers that massage their minimal Maori brains. It is clear that this Government is endeavouring to use race based politics to divide the country to advance the sale of our electricity companies. The focus now is on greedy Maori rather than greedy rich people who are not Maori. If I have a right and an interest in an asset I have a right to go before a Court to have that determined whether the Prime Minister likes it or not.
Sunday News, 15th July 2012