By John Minto
It's amazing what the Government considers free when they're trying to take it.
When John Key claimed 'no one owns the water', he was using simplistic language to justify the sale of Mighty River Power. Maori had never sought to force the legal issue of water ownership in NZ until the Government forced their hand by trying to sell public assets.
The issue of who owned the water in the rivers that power these energy plants didn't need legal definition when the asset was being used for all. However, the moment the Government decided to privatise that public resource, Maori were first in line to point out their indigenous interests and guardianship role.
The most interesting thing is that Maoridom's interests are the interests of all New Zealanders, which is that these assets not be sold and remain in public hands.
When Key says 'no one owns the water', he's really saying 'Maori don't own the water'. It's the cheapest of dog whistle politics and no doubt helped spike his poll ratings jump this month, but right wing rhetoric and low level bigotry doesn't hold up in Court - and that is where this issue will be headed if Key ignores Maori voices so that he can rush the sale through before the end of the year.
The Government have shifted from saying they opposed the urgency hearing to saying they would ignore the hearing to now demanding the hearing hurries up.
The Maori Party's position on this has swung between empty threats of walking out to agreeing to whatever sweet words John whispers into their ears.
There seems to be little point in having the Maori Party sit at the table when the National Party have sold 49% of the table.
This is a time for all NZers to rally around the Treaty if they oppose this asset sell off. If the sale can be pushed off until next year, the citizens initiated referendum can shame Key's claim of a mandate to erode our economic sovereignty by privatising our assets.
This isn't just about who owns the water this is ultimately about who will own NZ. Those who want to use the bounty of our country for everyone’s interests or those who want to slice up and sell off what we collectively have to those few wealthy enough to buy it.
John Minto is the MANA Party Vice President