Iwi backed on water rights

The Land and Water Forum has released its final report on how it thinks the resource should be managed and has sent its recommendations to the Government.

However, none of its suggestions address the rights of iwi to access water for customary and commercial use.

The forum comprises 62 organisations, including tribes, hydro electric generators and dairy farmers.

A special statement in the 125-page report is devoted to Treaty of Waitangi partners. It says the forum acknowledges that iwi have rights and interests in freshwater.

It goes on to say the responsibility for resolving the nature of the rights and interests rests with iwi and the Crown.

But the forum also says it recognises that others have established rights and interests in water - existing rights that should not be compromised.

It adds that no organisation should have to pay for any resolution hammered out between the Crown and iwi.

The Maori Council and other claimants are seeking recognition of water rights before the Government partially privatises hydro power plants.

Prime Minister John Key has said in common law no one owns the water.

But he said Maori do have rights and interests in water - which will continue to be addressed in a number of ways - including through dialogue with iwi leaders.

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