Claims Māori will own NZ’s water infrastructure dismissed

The Three Waters working group has dismissed claims that Māori will own the country’s water infrastructure under the reforms.

Tuku Morgan, a member of the working group and Waikato Tainui descendant, said it was time they set the record-straight.

“There is a view being promoted by some of the councillors around the country that this is a Māori grab for power, that we are interested in owning these water assets,” he said.

“It’s absolute nonsense. We have always said, that we’re not interested in owning the water assets. What we’re interested in is the proprietor rights over water, and that is a discussion to be had with the Crown, not with councils.”

Te Rūnanga o Toa Rangatira chief executive, Helmut Modlik, said the reforms were simply about improving water quality for all New Zealanders.

Read more: Working group finds Three Waters proposal needs significant changes

“It isn't about assets, it’s not about democracy, it’s not about Māori, it’s not about who owns or who pays, those are considerations, but the primary objective of the reforms is to ensure that as a nation and as a group of communities we protect the health and wellbeing of our people. And that is fundamentally tied to water,” he said.

The reforms will see four new water service entities created to manage storm, waste and drinking water.

Each will be governed at a high-level by a regional group, half of whom would be council representatives and the other half, iwi representatives.

For Entity A, the working group would like to see four seats for Auckland Council, three for each of the Northland councils, four for Auckland iwi and the remaining three for iwi in Northland.

Every other entity would have just 12 seats.

“Co-governance is part of that transformative change,” Morgan said.

“That means equal number of iwi, equal number of council, bringing their collective skills, trying to reach consensus decision making and two chairs, one iwi and one council. This is a superb opportunity for us to unite with a common purpose.”

The working group said a 75 per cent majority should be required for all decisions if a consensus can’t be reached.

The difficulty for iwi will be deciding who should represent them, with some water entities covering more than 20 iwi territories.

“The process that will need to be followed to arrive at representative voices will need to be worked through,” Modlik said.