I couldn’t disagree more with Tom Johnson’s talking point (PM must snub iwi water claims 13/5/15). Water has not always been under the control of the crown. Before 6 February 1840 it was under control of Maori. So water is a Te Tiriti o Waitangi issue. To claim that it is only Maori who are claiming rights to water is disingenuous. Dr Johnson doesn’t make any comment about HBRIC, via the RWSS, attempting to gain private control over all irrigation water on the Ruataniwha Plains (good luck to any farmers wishing to roll over their current well consents if RWSS goes ahead). For some reason he is silent on this issue.
I certainly welcome debate about how our common interest in water is being captured before our very eyes by corporate interests. Having Maori retain some sort of interest in our water would likely put a stop to this. I trust their ability to manage this resource far more than the government or any local body simply because in Maori culture, many tribes directly or indirectly consider water as the source or foundation of all life and not just a resource to be exploited. An entirely different view it would seem, from that of Dr Johnson.
Like Dr Johnson, I too worry about the kind of New Zealand that my grandchildren will grow up in. But I’m not worried at all about a Maori renaissance, I’m worried about a continuation of the thinking which imagines that the market will provide and that trickle down actually works. It is corporate robber barons that are causing many of the problems facing New Zealand today, not our treaty partners. Personally I think Dr Johnson has forgotten about demographics. It doesn’t matter what he may say but given current birth rates it is only a matter of time before Maori will make up a far more significant and influential proportion of our population. Doesn’t it make sense to start working as partners now, rather than remain antagonists?