The co-chair of an organisation set up to manage the Waikato river says his iwi should be involved in every aspect of governing the river.
Tukoroirangi Morgan is backing an agreement between the Maori Party and the Prime Minister that Maori interests and rights in water should be negotiated between the Government and iwi.
Mr Morgan, a leading member of the influential Iwi Leaders Group, told Morning Report the issue of ownership is not akin to the kind of ownership the Pakeha world is familiar with, as the river and the people are inextricably bound.
"At all levels, in all forms of management and goverance over our waterways, iwi have to be there, hapu have to be there.
"So this conversation with the Crown is hugely important, " said Mr Morgan, co-chair of Te Kawerau a Maki.
Government urged to talk to hapu
A Maori group making a legal claim to fresh water says the Government must talk to hapu claimants as well as iwi leaders if it wants to resolve the matter.
The Whatitiri Trustees are among 11 claimant groups who have taken their grievances about water to the Waitangi Tribunal.
They claim a proprietary interest in Poroti Springs, near Whangarei, because the springs were vested in the local hapu by the Maori Land Court in 1896 and designated a Maori reserve in 1960.
Spokesperson Meryl Carter says the trustees have been to iwi leaders and the Land and Water Forum for help and had no support.
Mrs Carter says she hopes iwi and Maori Council leaders can sit down alongside hapu representatives and talk to the Government.