Water: The debate between ownership and rights

  • Breaking
  • 20/07/2012

By Tova O’Brien

The 'O' word – ‘ownership’ – has been painted a dirty word by Crown lawyers at the final day of the Waitangi Tribunal hearing over Maori water rights.

Politicians and the media were blamed for using the term, but there seems to be no simple alternative.

The Crown says the term is an irrelevant distraction and the issue is about rights, not ownership.

“Their argument is semantic and I have to say the tribunal doesn't seem to be buying it,” says Green MP David Clendon.

But the tribunal has a tough job on its hands - the court operates between two languages and there's not always an easy translation for terms.

One of those terms is kaitiakitanga. Kaitiakitanga sits at the core of Maori rights – it is hard to define and different iwi have different ideas about exactly what it means.

“[It’s] to control, to care and protect, and that is the Maori version of ownership,” says Maanu Paul, the Maori Council co-chairman.

But arguably the person who has used the 'O' word the most over last two weeks is Prime Minister John Key.

“We just do not believe anyone owns water,” he has said.

By the end of the month we'll hear what the tribunal thinks.

“We'll just sit back, await their report now and go through the process of responding to that report in due course,” says Mr Key.

The Maori Council has called this hearing the "fast and furious" first phase of what could be a far longer, far more intensive process.

For now, though, it's just about stalling the sale of Mighty River, but if phase two does go ahead expect a full deconstruction of every point and argument raised over the last two weeks.

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source: newshub archive