Iwi Chairs are united in their position on freshwater rights and interests, the National Iwi Chairs Forum announced today.

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Iwi Chairs are united in their position on freshwater rights and interests, the National Iwi Chairs Forum announced today.

“While we welcome increased funding for the development of Māori land, that funding must be accompanied by a process to address the rights and interests of Iwi, hapū and whānau in freshwater,” says Rukumoana Schaafhausen, Chair of the Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group.

Iwi leaders also support the government’s efforts to improve water quality, but such initiatives must be done in partnership with Iwi and must recognise and provide for Iwi, hapū and whānau interests.

“The government must grasp the nettle of ownership – something that successive governments have put in the ‘too hard basket’,” Mrs Schaafhausen says.

“The Waitangi Tribunal has recognised the proprietary interests of Iwi and hapū in freshwater. We are prepared to take action to assert those rights but prefer to work with the government to resolve this issue.

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“We maintain that ownership of our taonga – including freshwater – has never been ceded to the Crown. Nō tātau te wai. We own the water.”

Mrs Schaafhausen says that recognising Iwi, hapū and whānau rights and interests doesn’t mean overriding the interests of others.

“We consider the interests and needs of others can be respected while also providing for the ownerships rights and interests of Iwi, hapū and whānau.”