< November 2018 newsletter

Government's Freshwater Policy

The government released its water policy last month, see HERE. It avoids dealing with the question of ownership, instead focusing first on cleaning up rivers, and then looking into the more difficult issue of water allocation.

Government Cabinet documents released alongside the water policy plans warn water allocation is "not straightforward". And "Many of these issues cannot be resolved without substantial discussion with Māori”.

The current Government's position is that no one owns freshwater, and it belongs to everyone. Almost the same position - that no one owns water - was taken by the previous Government.

The Government’s supply and confidence partner, the Green Party, does not agree. They have warned they will be continuing to push for Māori to have rangatira and kaitiaki rights over water, saying this is a key area that needs strengthening. “Protecting the environment and recognising Māori rights go hand-in-hand” states Green Party Co-Leader Marama Davidson, in a recent letter to supporters.

Other Māori are also saying they are entitled to ownership of water - including the right to restrict others' use, and to compensation for unpaid royalties. Darrell Naden, of Tamaki Legal, said Māori should seek to protect rights over the resource, and that's likely to happen through the courts.

"We think we'll end up in court. Based on current case law, we think we'll prevail," Mr Naden is reported as saying. He also said acknowledging Māori rights could mean compensation for unpaid royalties and Māori governance over water use and discharges. He told his clients, it's less about direct monetary gain and more about having governance over the resource. See Newshub interview with Naden HERE.

Go back to the November 2018 newsletter


Update on the Three Waters Reform Programme

Early last year many of us made submissions on the Water Services Regulator Bill. Following the public consultation process the Government passed the Taumata Arowai – Water Services Regulator Act in July 2020. The reform programme is now being progressed through a voluntary, partnership-based approach with the local government sector, alongside iwi/Māori as the Crown’s Treaty Partner.  Continue reading

Partnership trumps good governance - the Taupō water monitoring deal

The Waikato Regional Council is planning to outsource the monitoring of the waters in and around Lake Taupo and its tributaries to the Tūwharetoa Maori Trust Board. This is despite the Council having identified the risk that it may be expected to undertake similar agreements with other iwi authorities or local authorities that may result in not being able to deliver on expectations due to competing priorities.   Continue reading

Influential role for Maori at new Water Services Regulator

Taumata Arowai—the Water Services Regulator Bill, open for public submissions until 4th March, seeks to create a new water regulator - to be called Taumata Arowai. The Bill includes provision for a Maori advisory group to work alongside this new Crown entity. The Maori Advisory Group is another manifestation of the government’s commitment to support agencies to form true partnerships with Māori "by actively facilitating new prototype partnerships between the Crown and Māori", as outlined in a cabinet paper released in July 2019, 'Building Closer Partnerships with Māori'. Continue reading

Action Plan for Healthy Waterways

Thank you to everyone who took the opportunity to make a submission on the Government’s 'Action for Healthy Waterways' discussion document. Around seventeen and a half thousand submissions were received, reflecting much interest in the proposals. From a democracy point of view, it is of great concern that several proposals point to the undermining of the democratic control of water, and include the intention to require local authorities to compulsorily include a vague and undefined set of values and interests in the management of the water bodies and freshwater ecosystems in their region. Continue reading

Have your say on looking after our water

The Ministry for the Environment is proposing a raft of legislative and regulatory changes to clean up lakes and rivers within “a generation”.  Continue reading


Last week the Waitangi Tribunal released its report on stage 2* of the National Freshwater and Geothermal Resources inquiry. The report recommends two specific amendments to the Resource Management Act 1991 and a number of paths and mechanisms for co-governance and co-management. Continue reading

Iwi seeking governance of the Marine & Coastal Area, and authority over water

On March 26 Maori claimants from around the country gathered to make submissions to the Waitangi Tribunal for the rights to their coastal water areas, saying that since the foreshore and seabed march in 2004, progress has been slow in recognising iwi governance of their marine and coastal areas. Continue reading

Maori Council demands the control of water

The Waitangi Tribunal has recently been hearing the final part of stage of two of its inquiry into a variety of claims relating to New Zealand’s fresh water resources. (A list of the matters the Tribunal is focusing on is available on the Waitangi Tribunal website, see HERE.) Continue reading