Māori welcome Labour's freshwater royalties plan

1:04 pm on 10 August 2017

Māori involved in freshwater disputes have welcomed Labour's proposal to charge bottling companies royalties and use the funds to resolve Treaty of Waitangi water claims.

water bottling

Photo: 123 RF

The plan, announced yesterday, would charge commercial users, such as water bottling companies and irrigation schemes, a fee for the water they take.

Labour water and environment spokesman David Parker said the intention was to reach a resolution with all stakeholders.

That resolution was expected to involve allocating a share of freshwater royalty revenue to Māori.

Taipari Munro, chair of the trust that owns Porotī Springs near Whangarei, welcomed the news.

Three hapū near Whangarei have held the legal title to the springs since 1896, but Northland Regional Council has still granted consents to farmers and a water bottling company to access thousands of cubic metres of water a day.

"Our argument has always been that our hapū are the guardians of those springs [and] we should have the right to talk for it and to be sitting at the decision-making table," Mr Munro said.

"Certainly if royalties are to be paid our hapū would expect that would come to them."

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern said the share of the royalties would go to resolving current Waitangi Tribunal water claims while the remainder would go to regional councils to help resolve water quality issues.

Māori attending the Environment Defence Society's conference yesterday were pleased the issue was being talked about.

Conference attendee Richelle Kahui-McConnell said Labour had "spoken to all of the things that have troubled us over the last nine years".

Patukirikiri iwi member Ani Pitman said Māori had not been able to practise kaitiakitanga, or guardianship, of their waterways.

She hoped Labour would consult with Māori before it made any further decisions.

"It's a conversation starter and it's the first time for a while that I've heard nice open conversation points."

Maungatapere Water Company shareholder John Wiessy, whose organisation takes millions of litres of water from the Porotī Springs each day, declined to comment yesterday.

He told RNZ last year the company's allocation gave it the right to sell the water.

Labour has committed to holding a water meeting within its first 100 days of government, if elected.