Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Report leaves water rights issue up to Govt and Maori

Photo / APN
Photo / APN

A key document on the future management of fresh water has left the issue of Maori rights and interests in the resource for the Government and iwi to sort out.

In its third report released this afternoon, the Land and Water Forum also says it failed to reach agreement on whether users should be charged for water.

The forum comprises of more than 60 representatives from the farming, industrial and tourism sectors, conservation groups and iwi.

Its report notes an enduring water management system "must resolve the question of iwi rights and interests".

However, it goes on to say "We accept that iwi rights and interests in fresh water are being addressed through direct engagement between iwi and the Crown".

In a statement on iwi rights and interests in water the forum noted it made a series of recommendations regarding the involvement of iwi in developing national objectives for water management and setting of limits.

However it acknowledged those recommendations did not address rights of iwi to access water for customary and commercial use.

The forum also noted that the transition to a new system of allocation "should proceed hand in hand with Crown iwi discussion on iwi rights and interests in freshwater management.

The forum's report today dealt specifically with how to allocate water and manage its quality, "including ways to ensure that freshwater management encourages investment, incentivises efficient practices and contributes to economic growth".

However, it said it had discussed the question of taxes and charges for water use "at some length" but had been unable to reach a resolution.

Some members of the forum objected to water charges because activities that depended on water use generated wealth and employment and water users already paid taxes and rates.

Members in favour of charging argued that the benefits of water use needed to be better shared with the wider community.

However the forum was in favour of local authorities overseeing markets for the trading of water rights after they were first allocated. It argued that would allow water rights to move to owners who would employ them for their highest value use.

The forum's report contained 67 recommendations in total dealing mostly with how central and local government should implement the water allocation regime it set out in its previous reports.

It agreed to meet again in July next year to assess the Government's response to its reports and to consider whether it could do more work to improve water management.

Forum chairman Alexander Bisley said the report "fleshes out the detail of a new consensus for a major reform of water laws and practices in New Zealand".

The forum's recommendations would enable "integrated decision-making in catchments, continuous improvement of management practices and clearer rights to take and use water within set limits".

The three reports were "a comprehensive and detailed blueprint to maximise opportunities" from fresh water for farmers and fishers, power generators and recreationalists, citizens and tourists, cities and industries.

"We want to grow the economy and improve the environment. Our recommendations apply to both urban and rural catchments. They provide for iwi to play their role as Treaty Partners and stakeholders."

Primary Industries Minister David Carter said the forum's work "provides a solid foundation from which to progress the Government's strategic direction for water management, with the support of a broad range of stakeholders".

Mr Carter and Environment Minister Amy Adams said the report would feed into further progress in the fresh water reform programme, "from which we've already seen the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, the Fresh Start for Freshwater Clean-Up Fund and the Irrigation Acceleration Fund".

- NZ Herald

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