Freshwater Briefing Paper

The official line from the Government is that no one owns water. English common law (which has applied in New Zealand since 1840) makes water a common good in which all citizens have a right.

There are charges for the use of water, which cover the costs of delivering it to users (i.e. infrastructure, storage, admin, pipe maintenance), but there is no charge for actual water at first source.

The 1967 Water and Soil Conservation Act (followed by the 1991 Resource Management Act) vested the sole right to use water (contained in the ground, lakes, rivers) in the Crown.

Water is not privatised in NZ. Only government authorities can issue rights to ground water.

People/organisations wanting to extract significant quantities of water have to obtain water right/permit/resource consent for a maximum of 35 years (at a minimum cost based on the amount they want to use, payable to a Regional Council).

Rules on the quantity of water allowed to be extracted with or without a permit/resource consent vary depending on the Regional Council involved and the availability or scarcity of water in a region.

People who own property over which water flows, are able to take water for domestic use without needing a consent. However, if they want to take more than the specified ‘domestic’ amount, they must apply for a permit to their Regional Council or Unitary Authority – which hold the delegated powers to deal with this issue from the government.

Regional Councils currently control the allocation of water. Their democratically elected councillors are required to have the public good at heart, rather than any private interests.

Once granted a water right, the user does with it what’s allowed by the permit, e.g. irrigation, manufacturing, or bottling. A fuss has arisen because some permit holders from overseas have been bottling water and shipping it overseas. In this, the business is no different from any other operation except that the water permit itself is not expensive and delivers no great return to Kiwis.

No royalty fees exist on the actual water. Should they be imposed in the future, there will inevitably result in all end-users (i.e. individuals) paying more for their day-to-day use.

Power stations and farms may build dams, structures may be sold but the water stays vested in the Crown. –No one owns the water and that’s how it should stay.

Regulations are in place to protect waterways (and are getting more stringent). It is up to the Government and/or Regional Councils to enforce the standards impartially wherever they are being breached.

If the water is polluted, the remedy lies in correcting the practices that are making it polluted. Allowing private "ownership" of waterways will not, of itself, remedy the situation.

96% of the water that falls on New Zealand either evaporates or flows into the seas and recycles. The current quantities being extracted under permit are only a fraction of the total flowing through the country.

Any shortage problems arise through seasonal weather patterns (e.g. summer in dryer zones) and how rights to water are being allocated (something which can be improved on).

(Much of which the Government is  proposing to give tribes)
a  Ownership by regional tribal organisations of all Crown-owned river and lakebeds, plus the  water columns above them, in perpetuity.
Note: Tribes have no obligation nor interest in working for the benefit of all New Zealanders.

b  Ownership of all fresh water.
Water is essential to any form of life on earth. In the interests of peace and prosperity, it cannot be owned by anyone.

c  Guaranteed allocation of fresh water for all tribes (no matter what they plan to do with that allocation and no matter what other New Zealanders require).
Note: There is no reason to allocate water to anyone based on race or politics. Maori tribes can apply for a water allocation along with everybody else.

d  Ratepayer-funded water infrastructure for maraes and marae housing (nationwide and including high density city developments).
Note: Many Maori properties do not pay rates, yet expect other Kiwis to provide them with ratepayer-funded Council services.

e  Tribal participation at all levels of fresh water decision-making (may include tribal representation on councils, joint management agreements, and co-management of waterways).
Note: There is no benefit to New Zealanders for appointments to being made based on race or tribal affiliation, and then being paid for by the ratepayers. It is undemocractic, racist and unfair to all Kiwis.

f  Taxpayers to provide $1 billion to tribes so they can “build their capacity to implement fresh water management and control”.
Considering New Zealand already has a fully functioning water system, the $1billion of taxpayers’ money is a totally unnecessary and unwarranted expense. That money would be better used in education, health and welfare for the benefit of all New Zealanders.

g  Taxpayer-funded tribal involvement in assessing and allocating resource consents or water rights.
Note: There is no benefit to New Zealanders for appointments to being made based on race or tribal affiliation, and then being paid for by the ratepayers. It is undemocractic, racist and unfair to all Kiwis.

Water is essential to any form of life on earth. In the interests of peace and prosperity, it cannot be owned by anyone. It needs to be managed by impartial, democratically elected government for the benefit of all citizens at the cheapest possible price. As such, it should not be privatised to tribal groups or anyone else who are motivated by personal financial gain and power, rather than public good.

Under government management, the people charged with managing our water can be voted out if they do not perform in the best interests of all New Zealanders. Under any sort of privatisation, the public may have no options if there is any bias, abuse or mismanagement.

Yes, they can do worse and undoubtedly will as private Maori tribes and corporations are focussed solely on their own advancement and securing additional sources of income in perpetuity. They have no obligation to New Zealanders at large. How would they be better suited to manage water than an elected Government authority commissioned to serve the public?

a  A tribe is un-elected and acts in the interests of its elite and its members.

b  The tribal claim on water is a major plank in the Maori sovereignty movement, which is dedicated to taking over New Zealand for the benefit of tribal members (less than 15% of the population).

c  It is grossly undemocratic for legal rights to be available to descendants of any one race, to the detriment of all others. It is also racist and unfair.

d  With bloodlines being so mixed in New Zealand, being affiliated to a Maori tribe is little different from choosing a religion or political movement. Many claiming to be Maori these days are predominantly European by blood. The academic and company director, Tipene O’Regan was born Stephen Gerard O'Regan and is 1/16th Maori and his daughter Hana 1/32nd. They are overwhelmingly of Irish descent. Being a Maori of Convenience, he changed his first name as an adult and has been prominent in Treaty of Waitangi settlements and Maori business.

There is no requirement under the Act to transfer rights of sovereign government to Maori tribes. The section “Encouraging Maori participation in local government” simply states: “Taken as a whole, there is an obligation to consider what steps the council can reasonably take to encourage and assist Maori to participate in local affairs.
These provisions do not confer special rights and privileges on Maori that are not accorded to other members of the public.”

Canterbury Law Professor, David Round states: There is absolutely no legal, moral or common sense justification for any Maori claim to fresh water.

The Waitangi Tribunal did not even have the authority to consider any Maori claim to water, since it is now barred from considering any ‘historical claim’ arising before 1992.

As a matter of common sense, when Maori sold land in the past, that sale must have included the water on or flowing over the land. How can you separate them? Indeed, that conclusion would follow from the ‘holistic’ nature of the Maori worldview ~ everything is connected, you see, and Maori don’t divide the world up into ‘resources’ the way the white folks do. Come to think of it, it was not that long ago that we were getting sanctimonious sermons from Maori to the effect that the very concept of owning the natural world was an anathema…”.

Links to articles for further reference: