Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Ngati Kahungunu will go to court over water claim

Photo / APN
Photo / APN

Major North Island iwi Ngati Kahungunu yesterday said it would go to court if necessary to assert its ownership rights over not just water but the state owned power companies that use it.

But Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson flatly ruled out having the meeting the iwi was seeking with him to discuss its bid for power company shares.

Last week as the Government responded to the Waitangi Tribunal on the Maori Council's water rights claim, Ngati Kahungunu filed its own claim asserting rights over water in its area and seeking a delay in the asset sales programme.

The Government has delayed the sale of Mighty River Power until next year while it consults with iwi affected by the sale over the tribunal's "shares plus" concept for redress.

But Ngati Kahungunu chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana yesterday said that following a hui over the weekend the iwi, the third largest in the country, was now "asserting their ownership rights to electricity state owned assets".

He said the Government had a "long established history" of recognising Ngati Kahungunu ownership to water bodies used to generate hydro-electricity for state owned companies.

"For this reason we have requested a meeting to discuss the direct interests of Ngati Kahungunu in the water bodies used by the electricity SOE's."

One Ngati Kahungunu hapu would be affected by the privatisation of Mighty River Power because it was early last century relocated by the Government to the area where the Waikato town of Mangakino now stands. That hapu was one of the claimants behind the Maori Council's claim.

Another of the iwi's hapu has an interest in Lake Waikaremoana where Genesis Energy operates a dam.

Mr Tomoana said he was seeking a meeting with Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson separate to the shares plus consultation but no date had been set yet.

"We're putting our hand up and saying "wait on, our hapu have interests too, you should consider speaking to the iwi on behalf the hapu"."

Mr Tomoana said court action to halt the sales until the iwi's rights were addressed was always "a last resort", but "we're quite keen to go into direct negotiation with the Crown".

However a spokesman for Mr Finlayson said the minister would not meet with Ngati Kahungunu.

Mr Tomoana said he would represent his iwi's view that the issue of Maori water rights should be dealt with before the power companies were partially sold when he attended a water rights hui on Thursday in Turangawaewae convened by Maori King Tuheitia.

He would be recommending "pan-iwi support of all the claims throughout the country" to counter the Government's stance the issue should be dealt with on an iwi by iwi basis - an approach he described as "divide and rule tactics".

- APNZ

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