The chairman of an Eastern Bay of Plenty iwi collective, the Mataatua Assembly, doesn't want to see all the water in rivers given away through water rights, so that there's nothing left for tangata whenua.
Sir Hirini Mead on Thursday presented the Prime Minister with a declaration on Maori rights to water, when John Key visited Te Manuka Tutahi Marae in Whakatane.
He said the assembly, which includes 10 iwi, wants its voice to be heard and its influence to be felt.
Sir Hirini said iwi cannot afford not to be part of discussions about the fresh clean water.
He said Maori in Eastern Bay of Plenty assert that they have a Treaty right to water, which cannot be denied.
However iwi are not quite sure how a proprietary right to water, which is what the Waitangi Tribunal recently ruled Maori have, is going to work out.