Let’s talk about Māori and fresh water shall we?


Waitangi Tribunal slams Crown over freshwater failures

The tribunal released a landmark report tonight into National Freshwater and Geothermal Resources that highlights a series of failures in the Resource Management Act.

Presiding officer Chief Judge Wilson Isaac said the Act and subsequent freshwater management policies had failed to meet the Treaty of Waitangi standard of active protection.

“The RMA has allowed a serious degradation of water quality to occur in many ancestral water bodies, which are now in a highly vulnerable state,” he said.

He also said the Act did not provide adequately for the tino rangatiratanga and the kaitiakitanga of iwi and hapū over their freshwater tāonga.

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The tribunal is calling for sweeping changes, including recognising Māori proprietary rights.

A lot of confusion and anger about the Waitangi Tribunal on Māori water rights, so let’s just get some clarity on the issue.

1 – Maori owned the water first.

2 – Maori had the water appropriated by Pakeha.

3 – Pakeha promptly polluted much of the fresh water for dairy and industrial use.

4 – National privatised hydro and effectively privatised water.

5 – Privatising and abusing an appropriated public resource means Maori have every right to demand their share.

The myth that no one owns the water was one pushed by National so that their privatisation of hydro could occur when Key was busy selling assets and it also allowed the continued abuse by Dairy to continue.

While China looms as a threat by taking the bottled fresh water that the Dairy Industry doesn’t pollute, it’s time for Pakeha to appreciate that the Treaty of Waitangi actually defends our rights from a rapacious free market that commodifies all our natural resources.

The protection of Māori water rights are a win for every New Zealander.


  1. The water was here long before Maori ever stepped foot on NZ soil.
    If they ‘own’ it, that implies they were given it by someone or bought it from someone, because if something like water can be owned then it must have had a previous owner.
    I have yet to discover who this was.
    The privatisation of hydro by JK by saying no one owns the water is an illusion. Water is not ‘used’, consumed, absorbed or transported offshore in the hydro process.
    It is absurd to suggest that things which have existed for thousands of years before any person walked this land are owned by any person or persons. These things will be here long after said persons have departed and since they can’t take it with them, what then?
    The reality is that water, land, sky and air are not owned by anyone. They are here for the use of all who call this land home – not for foreigners.
    We don’t expect to use the water in china, they have no expectation to use ours.
    If they’ve run out or their water isn’t as good as ours, not our problem.
    Ultimately however, if we can stop water from being taken (stolen) and sold overseas to china or wherever by saying that Maori own it, “Let’s do it”.

    • Yes. And the same for the land to I suppose? Been here for soooo long before anyone came here. Probably as long as the water. Yet people say they own it? So who did they buy it off? In many cases no one. Just said it was theirs to do with as they wanted.

      Your whining about water doesnt hold water. All the resources that capitalism seeks to put a price on have been here for a long time. They were all here before any humans came on the scene. Its always interesting how the bigots make these claims as soon as there is any possibility of Maori being given a slice but silent or salivating greedily when there is a chance for them to make a killing from making the public private

    • Well said. “The reality is that water, land, sky and air are not owned by anyone. “However, if we are ever going to save this planet some one must take responsibility for it Logically that entity can only be the government of the day administering it on behalf of all our citizens. The land and all the natural assets upon and in it cannot therefore be for sale. Land may not be sold to anyone. That stops the rampant speculation on land immediately. Ownership of water is conceptually nonsense. Use of it for all Kiwis is the governments duty. Bottling it for China is a travesty. Maori have no better or worse right to it than anyone else.

      • Except that they do because of guardianship written into the treaty. If the government of the day is too inept or corrupt to give a damn then Maori have every right to make a claim to restore the guardian role as protectors of the water to themselves. If the only path to obtain this role is through a claim of ownership then they are duty bound to make that claim. It seems that this is the only way to make people care about what we are doing to the place where we live. If it weren’t for the treaty and Maori concern for the world we live in it is probable that we would just drown in the effluent of Fontera. We look at what is happening in the Amazon but it wasnt so long ago that NZ was a cloud of smoke from the fires of people of the same ilk. And now the indigenous people of the Amazon have become the loudest voice and strongest advocates to stop the craziness of burning the forest to grow more cattle and soya beans

      • It’s actually a Travesty that we still have bigots that spews these troupes when ignorantly or not, demand the JK meme that “no one owns the water” should be preserved into our public discourse when this troupe has deeper connotations then what you’re implying.
        Now if you have any idea of what the Treaty of Waitangi article 2 means then you wouldn’t be so ignorant of ranting off this racial undertone that is used to further disenfranchise Maori.

  2. Our press release today Martyn.
    Can you place it up on your facepage if you will also please for more exposure.

    CEAC supports Tribunal criticism of crown freshwater failures

    Press release from Citizens Environmental Advocacy centre. 29th August 2019.

    Recent Radio NZ press release covering the Waitangi Tribunal freshwater failures hearings (seen here in this link below) shows a lack of over years of Crown awareness of another “elephant in the room” regarding how other sources of pollution of our freshwater is now seriously been contaminated badly, and shows that the crown over the last 11 years has not used the RMA to protect our degrading water quality, so we wholeheartedly support the tightening of provisions in the RMA to protect our whole natural and built environment to protect everyone in our precious environment.

    Regarding the “elephant in the room” being the not previously considered by the crown; – let us clarify;

    Recently on (Thursday, 22 August 2019) our centre (Citizens Environmental Advocacy Centre, ‘CEAC’ ) discussed this issue of ‘road pollution runoff’ as the “elephant in the room” in a press release – see in this link below;

    Quote; We at CEAC believe ‘this is the elephant in the room now’ as we already know from the ‘NZ Ministry of Transport’ documented studies from the 2002 report entitled “Emission Factors for Contaminants Released from Motor Vehicles in NZ” Fuels and Energy Management Group December 2002. https://www.transport.govt.nz/assets/Import/Documents/9fa2b3a10b/stormwater-emission-factors.pdf
    That report shows that tyre particulates have many toxic chemicals that are known to be harmful to humans.
    These are already found to be freely released in the tyre dust as we drive and are then washed off our roads into our drains, streams, rivers, lakes and aquifers, and finally into our drinking water, so we are part of the problem already now.
    EV vehicles will still emit the same tyre dust toxins as regular gasoline vehicles do.
    The new scientific German report https://www.sott.net/article/418585-Plastic-particles-falling-out-of-sky-with-snow-in-the-Arctic
    ‘Raining plastic’ – QUOTE “fragments of rubber tyres”.

    So now we see the ‘Transmission Gully’ mega NZTA roading project has been found to be causing the “silt build-up now chocking the nearby coastal estuaries and causing very long term serious damage to the life of all aquatic species including kai moana which is the tāonga – life-blood of Māori Iwi/hapu.

    Bluntly; the RMA definitely failed us all here especially over the ‘loosely controlled’ activities of the road builder NZTA;
    We quote; Presiding officer Chief Judge Wilson Isaac;

    “The RMA has allowed a serious degradation of water quality to occur in many ancestral water bodies, which are now in a highly vulnerable state,” he said.
    “RMA did not provide adequately for the tino rangatiratanga and the kaitiakitanga of iwi and hapū over their freshwater tāonga.”

    CEAC believes NZTA must be “heavily regulated” by having the Ministry of health, Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Transport along with the Government stepping in here and placing ‘new controls over the road builder going forwards’ now so NZTA actually comply with strict regulatory rules to protect all those living near their roads in future.

    From this time forward we expect to see serious care and consideration be written into the RMA to stop the widespread pollution and emissions of ‘air and water carrying pollution’ and ‘road- runoff‘ being washed of NZTA roads and carried through air pollution from tyre wear from tyre dust and exhaust emissions from over use activities of heavy truck freight particularly.

    We at CEAC have always advocated for widespread use of rail, as an environmentally friendly transport system and with national party policy of overuse of ‘freight trucks’ on our regional roads is now destroying our ‘natural/coastal and built’ residential environments alike and endangering our health and wellbeing.


    • Your comment would be plausible if everyone new this for the last hundred years. Fact is we didn’t have the data. Next fact Māori have been more than happy to drive our toxic vehicles along with everyone else. So back off the moral high ground and just look for solutions along with everyone else.

  3. Water has been here before human habitation and it’s use should be to be prioritised to local people, fauna and fauna with the most important thing being, to maintain water quality and the resource for future generations and biodiversity.

    Due to complete mismanagement, greed and stupidity, in particular government policy and the RMA that through stupidity no longer has any meaningful ability to stop pollution or create any natural justice, but instead encourages dishonesty, mercenary behaviour and lying, water has now been sold off and water rights given away, by a handful of people in local and central government.

    Water sustainability in NZ is an illusion that the current state of serious degradation of water quality and growing droughts show. It is even worse when the measures to test water quality are now gamed to hide that the problems.

    Water is a human right. It should be free to be collected and owned from rainwater collected by anyone who owns the land, HOWEVER in my view, water in lakes, streams and aquifers and the ocean are shared land which under the treaty was supposed to be jointly owned for the benefit of all.

    Instead the opposite has happened. water sold off and profited from, quality ruined.

    it is not a race issue, it is a human issue. The Maori Party supported the Natz in selling off the power for example so it is not the black/white good race/bad race scenario, it is individual and collective greed and stupidity that is the problem.

    An issue which should be addressed under the treaty by having Maori own 50% of the decision for water while Pakeha own the other 50% under the treaty. And the only free water for dairy farmers and anyone else, is collected from the skies at the mercy of the weather not to be take from shared public lakes, rivers, streams and aquifers.

    Note this system has led to record profits for power companies while some people are too poor to afford to use power so it is deeply unequal as well. Likewise people who live in NZ pay high prices for water through both user charges and their rates, but offshore corporations can apparently get the rights to water for free or a fraction of the price and on sell it for a massive profit while increasing the plastic pollution at the same time.
    Weirdly now it is legal in NZ to charge people more if they use free power of the sun in solar panels… in Germany they do the opposite and pay people for solar power…

    Power company criticised over solar charge

    NZ monopoly power practices are not even compliant in the US or EU…https://ecotricity.co.nz/nz-powercos-noncompliant-under-eu-us-rules/

    NZ Power Companies Non Compliant under EU and US Laws

  4. The councils are one of the biggest polluters of water with their obsession with growth and leaving the pollution as an issue for someone else as a byproduct of their short sightedness and lack of risk controls….

    Consent sought to spill wastewater into pristine South Island lakes for decades


    GUEST BLOG: Mike Lee – Auckland’s dirty secret – can we handle the truth?


  5. I enjoyed a certain quiet pleasure when reading Judge Wilson Isaac’s water summary. Regardless of who owns any of NZ’s polluted waters, is legal acknowledgement that these waters are polluted because of negligent Pakeha stewardship.

    Could Maori have similarly degraded waters given the opportunity ? Well, that is something that we can never know. The only certainty is that left to their own devices, Pakeha, in spite of any dumb assumptions of superiority, have violated big time.

    But all is not lost.

    John Key on the BBC referring to top water scientist Mike Joy, said that scientists are like lawyers, and there’s always another one with another view. Fairly soon the Nats will find somebody to provide an opposing view to Judge Wilson Isaac’s considered opinion, and some fool of a human hearth-brush, will bray that our rivers are as clear as a politician’s conscience…

    • The flaw in your logic is that since the treaty, what you call “pakeha ownership”, is ownership by all NZers. There are Maori dairy farmers using water and polluting, Maori farm workers, irrigation workers, Maori drinkers of bottled water.
      As to Maori stewardship, they do have some successes as stewards in some areas eg as kaitiaki of some marine areas, but they are as human as anyone and not all are well run.
      Neither were the massive fires that first burned our forests an act of great stewardship, or the extinction of moa.
      Water needs protecting for all kiwis- overseas commercial take should be banned outright, NZ commercial take (including irrigation from aquifers or rivers) should be limited and taxed heavily.

  6. Beware water that people have relied on for centuries is now drying up in other countries and likely to be in NZ as well if the water is overused and mismanaged for no reason what’s so ever, it’s crazy to be giving water away for private profits when they are not even NZ owned companies for the most part!!!

    These Cities Are About to Run Out of Clean Drinking Water (and they include London and Beijing)
    “Water scarcity will become a reality for many cities. It’s happened before; hundreds of wells ran dry near Bakersfield, California in 2014. Forced to go without running water until late 2016, residents used bottled water until a nearby town extended its water supply.

    Due to population booms, pollution, and climate change, taps will eventually run dry all over the world. Here are the most water-stressed cities in America and beyond.”

    India’s wells are running dry, fast (2017)

    The rain and drought situation in India is grim. (2019)

    Africa is running out of water, plagued by drought, population growth

    Whoever in NZ responsible for the stewardship of water in NZ, are a joke!

    Forget oil exploration, water sounds like a hot commodity that NZ officials lazily gives away for others to profit off, to pollute, or just waste, while of course making the locals pay a premium for water, with rates and user pays. It’s crazy from an economic point of view as well as short sighted from an environmental point of view and disgusting from a moral point of view.

    And the water debate should not be polarised and simplified to be against the Dairy farmers vs everyone else, or Maori vs Pakeha, because while that is happening quite a lot of other players seem to be gaming the resource to themselves like water bottlers and tourism industry which is not exactly owned by locals anymore.

  7. Well they can say what ever they like about our river but our Hutt river is fill of algae bloom and has been for more than 10 yrs who is responsible our local council and they have made a fucken mess of our awa and someone needs to sort this mess. We cant even swim in Hutt river and the Taita rock use to be a great spot now can the council be sued they wrecked it they should fix it

  8. I’ve been saying for a while that the reason nothing is being done about all this bottled water being sold overseas for peanuts despite the anger from New Zealanders because:

    a) Because Pakeha New Zealanders don’t want Maori to have any rights over water

    B) Farmers don’t want a price put on bottled water because then they will have to pay something for it too.

    We are our own worst enemy

  9. The citizens of Christchurch much be pissed off drinking treated water, when right on their doorstep a Chino Water Bottling Plant is stripping out millions of $’s of artesian water all for the cost of a $1000.00 Resource Consent ?

    • At the very least, bottled water should be charged for, we have people living in cars, don’t they deserve the right to a decent life, while on the other hand corporations are given free resources and government cries poor for social services and housing??? The money is in NZ in natural resources that our government gives away to overseas folks while allowing often the same overseas corporations to charge NZ monopoly rates for things like power and water.

      I’m not sure water should even be collected and exported out of NZ, but if it is, then why the F are the exporters not being charged for it, at the same exorbitant rates Kiwis are expected to pay for.

      And don’t use the argument that it’s just for the water pipes, because everywhere pipes are breaking from Taupo to Auckland, and people are metered on the amount of water they use, not a set charge for pipes!

  10. Well I hope this is settled soon. I have a few water damaged areas on my property and am looking for someone to point my finger at…

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