Maori water claims to go global

Valmaine Toki

A Waikato University Maori academic plans to take the growth-stifling Maori water claim issue to the United Nations.

In a recent Waitangi Tribunal decision, the government was urged to put a halt to its planned programme of partial asset sales until the tribunal had properly reviewed the issue of Maori water rights.

The tribunal held an urgent inquiry into the matter after the Maori council called for the sale of Mighty River Power shares in September to be postponed.

At a world indigenous lawyers’ conference in Hamilton next month, senior lecturer Valmaine Toki says she will lead a discussion on environmental, resources and energy law.

She says Maori have rights to water, despite what Prime Minister John Key says.

Ms Toki wants more discussion between Maori and the government on "education around water rights, aboriginal title and Maori tikanga".

She plans to take the issues around water rights to the United Nation's permanent forum on indigenous issues, of which she is the deputy chairwoman.

Ms Toki wants government policies to preserve the environment for Maori.

The conference will also look at whether ownership of natural resources is necessary for the development of indigenous people, whether there should be a Maori bank or if banks just need to be "a bit more Maori", and whether the courts are relevant to the development of indigenous people.

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Amazing how an animist belief system's view of water can translate into an modern ownership right - particularly when our common law does not recognise that water is capable of ownership. It is intellectually dishonest. If you accept the benefits and obligations that go with a legal system that defines property rights you cannot pick and choose the bits you do not like.

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