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Maori have always owned water - Maori king

Thursday 13 Sep 2012 5:52 p.m.

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By Patrick Gower

The Maori king's hui has resolved asset sales must go on hold until Maori proprietary rights to water are defined.

It is another major blow to the Government’s asset sales programme, because King Tuhetia’s spokesman Tukurorangi Morgan says all Maori are united and will not negotiate with the Government separately.

Mr Morgan says the matter will take time - meaning the Government could  have to delay further or ignore the wishes of Maoridom. 

Earlier today King Tuheitia told the national hui on the issue that Maori have always owned water.

The big chiefs and the long-time activists were at Turangawaewae to discuss one issue – water – and looking for one thing – unity.

Maori Council chair Eddie Durie says unity is on the top of the agenda for the hui and thought it was definitely possible.

“That means all the threads of Maoridom working together to get rights to water, off the Government.”

Tukurorangi Morgan agrees.

“We’ve all got to come together. There is but one waka to row. And that is for and on behalf of our people.”

But the direction that waka goes is the question. Sonny Tau who leads Nga Puhi, one of New Zealand's biggest tribes says asset sales should go on hold unless the Prime Minister fronts up to Maori.

“My message to John Key is sit down and talk to us about this. Or there's a high likelihood Iwi will take you to court over this.”

Many at the hui believe Mr Key is trying to divide and rule Maori by doing a deal with the big tribes linked to Mighty River Power - Tainui and Tuwharetoa.

But Tuwharetoa paramount chief Tumu Te Heuheu had a warning for the Government: ‘we have got you in a corner’.

Yet some Maori, such as Ngai Tahu leader Mark Solomon, say a water deal can happen without stopping the asset sales.

“From a Ngai Tahu perspective we don't believe asset sales will affect the rights and interests of Maori or reaching an agreement on that at all.”

Mr Key was in Auckland today and has shunned the call for a national hui with Maori over water.

But even his friends in the Maori Party say Mr Key must change that stance.

“Ultimately I think the Prime Minister may have to meet with Maori, totally, in a big hui like this,” Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples says.

So the battle cry for unity is a challenge to Mr Key.

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