Maori King Tuheitia challenged the Prime Minister's dictum that no one owns the water by ending his national hui on Maori water rights last night with the declaration, "We have always owned the water!"
The hui resolved to fund a Maori Council court challenge to the sale of Mighty River Power unless the Government settles issues of proprietary rights over water before the share float of state-owned power companies.
King Tuheitia's strongly worded speech ended the hui attended by about 1000 people from throughout the country.
"The motto of Kingitanga is mana motuhake. We have never ceded our mana over the river to anyone," he said.
"In the eyes of our people, Pakeha law was set up to minimise our mana and maximise their own."
The hui at Tuarangawaewae in Ngaruawahia united groups including the Iwi Leaders Group, the New Zealand Maori Council, the Kingitanga, and iwi from around the nation.
It passed a resolution calling on negotiations with the Crown to take place before the sale of shares in state-owned power companies or its negotiations with iwi and hapu on water rights.
The King closed the hui saying his iwi aimed to take back control of the Waikato.
He said that when his mother, Dame Te Atairangikaahu, died, his tribe had to seek permission from the regional council to take her by waka to her resting place on Taupiri mountain.
The co-management settlement Waikato-Tainui has over the river was the best deal they could achieve.
"The ultimate goal is for Maori to take back these roles from the council."
The resolutions from the hui will be discussed today at another hui - of the Iwi Chairs Forum, a grouping of 64 iwi leaders.
Hui organiser Tukoroirangi Morgan said the resolutions would be conveyed to the Government.
The hui was called in the wake of a report by the Waitangi Tribunal saying the Government would be breaching the Treaty of Waitangi if it went ahead with its partial asset sales programme.
The Government has delayed the first float, of Mighty River Power, until next March or April. It will consult iwi associated with waterways used by Mighty River Power but has rejected any pan-Maori approach to settle water claims.
And it has refused to meet the Maori Council which took the water case.
The hui's response to that has been a pan-Maori negotiation ahead of any share sale or iwi negotiations with the Crown.
And it reflects the line taken by Maori Council co-chairman, Sir Eddie Durie.
"We must settle the nature of those rights first before we can contemplate a sale," he told the hui.
He noted the Government's unfriendliness towards the Maori Council, saying the iwi leaders had their foot in the door.
"We've got the door in our face."
Even the most moderate of the speakers, Tuwharetoa chief Sir Tumu te Heuheu, spoke about giving Maori more power to make decisions about how water is used and sharing in the economic benefits of the use of water.
The Mana Party's Hone Harawira MP and Annette Sykes embraced the notion of unity alongside the Iwi Leaders Group, which their party normally condemns as elites.
"If it takes the korowai [cloak] of the Kingitanga I'm happy with that," said Mr Harawira.
Resolutions passed by the hui to be discussed at an Iwi Chairs Forum today
* Proprietary rights must be settled before the sale of shares and before hapu and iwi enter negotiations with Crown
* King Tuheitia, Sir Tumu te Heuheu, Sir Eddie Durie, Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi and Kaa O'Brien, New Zealand Maori Council choose negotiators - including women - to deal with the Crown
* If negotiations fail, iwi will support a New Zealand Maori Council court challenge