Iwi tries to fix split on water

By Yvonne Tahana

Representatives of Tainui tribe and Maori King strive for unified position.

Iwi are ironing out confusion over water ownership before negotiations with the Crown. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Iwi are ironing out confusion over water ownership before negotiations with the Crown. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Meetings between two heavyweight Tainui leaders are under way to iron out internal tribal confusion around water ownership issues.

King Tuheitia's spokesman Tuku Morgan is emphatic that all iwi leaders must stick to resolutions passed at the King's water summit, which include working out a framework for water rights before iwi negotiate with the Crown.

Immediately after the hui this month, Mr Morgan said: "The A list of Maoridom were here, the who's who of Maoridom were here - they are part of the decision and they are bound by the decision."

But Tom Roa, who is chairman of the tribe's executive board Te Arataura and on the Iwi Leaders Group for Freshwater, says the King's "strong" position on water - that Maori own it - also reflected respect towards the individual right of iwi to go back to their people to weigh the resolutions.

"From my perspective ... every iwi and every hapu has their right to their autonomy and that includes Waikato-Tainui.

"The New Zealand Maori Council will not negotiate on Waikato-Tainui's behalf. Nor will any group. That's our plain position and I suggest that's the position of every iwi and hapu in the country."

Line the two positions up and Mr Roa admits the sentiments are at odds.

"Yes. We're having meetings to sort that through. Tuku is the spokesperson for the Kingitanga and I am the spokesperson for Waikato-Tainui," he said.

Asked if there should be a unified position between the two, Mr Roa said: "Very clearly."

What is not in doubt is that there has been a sharp evolution of the Kingitanga. In the past, spokesmen have been the voice of the movement - in part to protect the monarch from direct criticism.

King Tuheitia's speech to 1000 Maori on such a charged issue changed that.

"In terms of Waikato-Tainui I would suggest that whatever the King says, whatever the King does, the people support," Mr Roa said. "There is some concern for him, there is some concern for our relationships [in the tribe] and with other iwi and hapu but there is total support for the King."

The Labour MP for Hauraki-Waikato, Nanaia Mahuta, the King's cousin, said the move came with risks as exposure to criticism would come on any issues in the public domain.

"That is a matter for Tuheitia to weigh up as the media can be critical and sceptical of any perspective he may have. Tuheitia has his advisers and they must be accountable for the advice they give him."

Hui resolutions

* That Maori stand united on the matter.

* That a framework for expression on mana, including proprietary right, be settled before the sale of shares in the state-owned Mighty River Power and before iwi and hapu enter negotiations with the Crown.

* That the framework be negotiated with the Crown by persons chosen by Kingi Tuheitia, Sir Tumu te Heuheu, Sir Eddie Durie, Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi and Kaa O'Brien from nominees of the claimants, NZ Maori Council and iwi leaders, and having regard to gender.

- NZ Herald

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