Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Mike Butler: Water claimants fight themselves

Over the past few months, Keep Water Kiwi campaigners have been treated to the spectacle of water claimants fighting among themselves -- in this case both the New Zealand Maori Council and Ngai Tahu.

Over the past two weeks, the High Court was used to resolve a leadership dispute at the Maori Council and Ngai Tahu leader Sir Mark Solomon resigned in face of a no-confidence motion.

The Maori Council dispute was between former co-chairs Sir Taihakurei (Eddie) Durie, the first Maori appointed as judge to the New Zealand court, and Mataatua District Maori Council chair Maanu Paul.

A hui in Auckland in February of this year voted for an audit of council accounts and elected Maanu Paul as the sole chairman.

Last month, Durie applied to the High Court which ruled neither he nor Paul could say they were the sole chair and that the issue of chairmanship needed to be determined in accordance with the Maori Community Development Act 1962, which meant a vote.

Justice Jillian Mallon said the February meeting after which Paul claimed to be sole chair did not have a quorum and was therefore invalid, but that a properly constituted meeting supervised by Sir Wira Gardiner could resolve matters. (1)

The court further ordered that no audit could take place without the approval of the Maori Council.

A hui on Saturday, April 16, elected Durie for a three-year term, Tairawhiti District Maori Council representative Owen Lloyd as deputy, as well as a five-member executive.

The meeting also resolved to end an outside audit of the council’s finances ordered by Paul, restore access to the council’s bank account, and confirmed Woodward Law, a firm run by Durie’s wife Donna Hall, as the council’s instructing solicitor for the Waitangi Tribunal claim on Maori water rights.

The hui also expelled Tamaki Makaurau representative John Tamihere for misconduct. Durie said the row over control cost the council five months of valuable time when it needed to concentrate on the water claim and other national issues.

Paul says his lawyers were filing an injunction to the High Court to overturn any resolution from the weekend and that a forensic audit of council accounts should continue. (2)

Meanwhile, Ngai Tahu leader Mark Solomon announced, on April 28, he would not seek re-election as the Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu representative for Kaikoura. He noted that this would end his role as “kaiwhakahaere”, Ngai Tahu’s elected chair and spokesman. (3)

Kaikoura is one of the 18 runanga that make up the Ngai Tahu tribal organisation. Each runanga appoints a representative to Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu, which is responsible for the overall governance of the group.

Ngai Tahu Holdings Ltd is a separate entity which controls the trading arm of Ngai Tahu.

The background to Solomon’s unexpected resignation was ongoing conflict he had with Te Runanga's appointed chief executive Arihia Bennett as well as a police investigation into allegations of historic sexual abuse in Kaikoura that involved one of Solomon’s numerous first cousins.

Conflict between Solomon and Bennett was to do with the governance of Te Runanga and who Bennett should report to. The row included allegations of potential nepotism. (4)

Solomon’s resignation from his role in Kaikoura followed the sentencing of Tai Stirling, 60, to home detention and community work on sex-abuse charges arising from events up to 40 years ago. There was a vote of confidence. Solomon resigned before votes were counted. The count revealed the no-confidence vote had majority support. (5)

The end of Solomon’s iwi position raises questions on whether he could continue in any role with other iwi leaders, freshwater or otherwise. There has been no word on whether he would or could continue in that role.

The Maori Council and the Iwi Leaders Group are the two main players in pushing the claim that Maori have “residual proprietary rights” to freshwater, with the Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group demanding:
1. Transfer of title to all Crown owned river and lake beds and title to the water column above to regional tribal groups.

2. Title in fresh water consistent with Waitangi Tribunal rulings.

3. Guaranteed of allocation of fresh water for all marae and marae housing.

4. Free water infrastructure for maraes and marae housing.

5. Tribal participation at all levels of fresh water decision-making that may include tribal representation on councils, joint management agreements, and co-management of waterways.

6. A $1-billion fund of public money to build the capacity of tribes to implement fresh water management and control.

7. Tribal involvement in resource consents or an allocation of tradeable water rights.
Since the latest Maori Council leadership vote, the Waitangi Tribunal has announced that the second phase of Maori Council's water claim will go ahead, much to the delight of freshwater spokesperson Donna Hall, who said:

"The [interest the] council sees Maori as having in water, as bigger than just a management interest, and the Maori proprietary interest is based in access to the water, use of the water and partial control." (6)

Bear in mind the track record of tribunal reports show that the tribunal routinely recommends in favour of claimants no matter how far-fetched the claim is.

Remember too that the tribunal uses the term "residual proprietary rights" when justifying the tribal claim for water ownership.

While "residual proprietary rights" may appear as a significant legal term, closer investigation shows that it is mostly only ever used in the Maori claim for water, so is most likely nothing other than high-sounding nonsense dreamed up by the Waitangi Tribunal in the claim for water ownership.


1.Clear-out under judge's eye. Waatea News, April 18, 2016.

2. New Zealand Māori Council Wants to Move Forward. Maori Television, April 19, 2016.

3. From Ta Mark Solomon, April 28, 2016.

4. Ngai Tahu head Sir Mark Solomon's exit triggered by clash of cultures, Stuff, April 30, 2016.

5. Ngai Tahu's Sir Mark Solomon resigns as chair of Kaikoura runanga, Stuff, April 27, 2016.

6. Water ownership back before Waitangi Tribunal, Radio NZ, April 29, 2016.

No comments: