Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: July 20

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia speaking to media while attending the Waitangi Tribunal urgent hearing into state asset sales at the Waiwhetu Marae in Lower Hutt. Photo / NZ Herald
Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia speaking to media while attending the Waitangi Tribunal urgent hearing into state asset sales at the Waiwhetu Marae in Lower Hutt. Photo / NZ Herald

Bill Clinton famously tried to redefine some of the English language to explain away previous denials of his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Political definitions can be quite elastic and so it may be with a few key words in John Key's assurance to the Maori Party - 'ownership', 'rights and interests' and even 'not'. More questions are raised than settled by the joint statement, writes Audrey Young: 'Unless the Maori Party and the Government agree on what ownership means, its concession in the joint statement is meaningless' - see: Water ownership remains ill defined. Young also makes the point that what works as a soundbite has little bearing on the real decisions that will dictate the final outcome: 'whatever agreements they reach, they have no control over other Maori to claim ownership rights over specific waters and have the courts uphold them'.

It seems that 'not' legislating over the 'interests and rights' of Maori in water actually comes with a big qualification - unless the courts rule that Maori have 'ownership' or rights that are too much like ownership for National's comfort.

Key acknowledged that the assurance of 'no legislation' was more of a preference than an absolute: 'In theory, but one would hope it wouldn't come to that'; 'At the end of the day that's not the preferred option' - cited in Adam Bennett's Calls to clarify how far pledge goes.

While the Prime Minister was trying to draw a clear line between 'ownership' and 'interests', Keiran Raftery, one of the Crown lawyers at the tribunal hearing, seemed to be arguing his client wasn't helping: '"The word ownership is a distraction from the proceedings. Being fixated by this term is not helping." The concept of ownership had caused difficulty in the community and politically, he said' - see: Kate Chapman's Water 'ownership' not the issue.

The Maori Council's final submission made their view very clear with lawyer Felix Geiringer saying 'the Maori relationship with water was such that if water was land, the courts would not hesitate to recognise it as an ownership title' - see Claire Trevett's Tribunal urged to rule Maori have full rights.

With the Tribunal hearings winding up, the inevitable move to the courts is already underway with claims of rights, and possibly 70 years back-rent, over three Mighty River Power dams by the people of Pouakani, who recently won the right to make a claim for the riverbed - see Jonathan Carson's Maori seek injunction on Mighty River sale.

While sometimes disagreeing with each other, various Maori spokespeople have generally been careful not to publicly undermine each other. The exceptions have been Maanu Paul's attack on the Maori Party (which he has walked back on recently) and today Nga Puhi leader David Rankin, who says the claim 'is all about profit and personal gains'. Rankin singles Paul Annette Sykes out (lawyer and Mana Party president), questioning their mandate to represent Maori - see: Ngapuhi Leader Critical Of "Greedy" Water Claim.

There are signs that Labour is looking at the wrong targets for radical change argues Chris Trotter in Shearer's radical inclination. The Standard has an anonymous but interesting blogpost that claims the new constitutional changes will cement in place leadership that needs to adapt to new realities - particularly the growing importance of our biggest city - see: An Auckland view on Labour's changes.

Unions have been the big winner in Labour's voting reforms says David Farrar (see: Labour set to give members a vote for Leader). Farrar calculates that under Labour's new rules, each MP proportionally has about 1% of the decision-making power, each party member has 0.008% say, and each affiliated union has 4% of the vote. In another blogpost, Farrar also points out that Len Brown may find himself bound by Labour policy, even though he didn't stand as a Labour candidate: Bringing Len into line.

Other important or interesting political items today include:

* The Greens will be much harder to keep onside than the Maori Party writes Jane Clifton - see Minority Rerport.

* The first of the Government's welfare reform bills have been passed by National, Act, United Future and the Maori Party - see: Isaac Davison's Welfare reform bill passed into law. But Danya Levy reports, Protests won't stop.

* It's not often that big corporates attempt to politicise their customers, but tobacco firm Philip Morris is attempting to get smokers involved in the political process with the establishment of a new website: - see also, Teuila Fuatai's Big tobacco fights to beat NZ's rules. The tobacco company says the website can be used to share views with politicians and lobby groups.

* How much leeway should we be giving the police to film our everyday lives? Currently the police seem to take the view that 'anything goes', but questions are being asked about citizen rights to privacy - see Joelle Dally's Police filming raises privacy question.

* Ngai Tahu won't be too impressed with today's Press column by Tahu Potiki - see: Iwi could do well to follow Apiata, Glenn. Potiki says that 'Ngai Tahu has spent more than $80m since settlement on bureaucracy, political manoeuvring, governance and public relations. They have spent nothing like that on housing, health, welfare and domestic safety of their tribal members'.

* Light-hearted banter or political gaffe? 'Morrisonsville girl' Jacinda Ardern has been offending Hamiltonians - see Nikki Preston's MP's housing quip riles councilors.

* Yet another journalist is departing for 'the other side' - the Listener's Joanne Black is taking a job as a press secretary for Bill English - see the report by the Herald's 'Insider - MPs that just can't catch a break, which says that 'Black will be able to commute with her husband [Grant Johnston], who is a senior policy adviser to the PM'. The Herald's 'Insider' also reports that although Parliament is back at work this week, some MPs are off on parliamentary travel to Washington, Samoa, Tonga, Niue, and New Caledonia. A barb is also directed at the Greens' Julie Ann Genter, for getting 'stuck into the Government over the Transport Agency's big spend-up on consultants' while 'in her past life Genter was a transport consultant who didn't mind doing work for civil servants'.

* Financial incentives for teachers are likely to see effort focused on those who need it least, rather than those who really need the attention writes Jim Traue - see: Disadvantaged students at risk.

* Life expectancy will rise faster than previously thought, with implications for the cost of supporting the retired -see: Eloise Gibson's Longer lifespans lift Super cost.

* Kiwirail seems to have had the same experience many consumers have suffered when buying cheap Chinese goods - see: Paul Harper's Brakes to be replaced on KiwiRail's new wagons. With plans to buy new locomotives from China as well Gordon Campbell wonders if Kiwirail and the taxpayers really are getting a bargain - see: On KiwiRail's outsourcing bungle with the Chinese.

- NZ Herald

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Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago. He teaches and researches on New Zealand politics, public policy, political parties, elections, and political communication. His PhD, completed in 2003, was on 'Political Parties in New Zealand: A Study of Ideological and Organisational Transformation'. He is currently working on a book entitled 'Who Runs New Zealand? An Anatomy of Power'. He is also on the board of directors for Transparency International New Zealand.

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