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Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson has spent 35 years in senior management positions in NZ business. He has a PhD in management with a special focus on organisational culture and change management.

PM must snub iwi water claims

THE perfidy of the Key government knows no bounds as is illustrated by its handling of iwi claims or demands for proprietary rights in perpetuity to freshwater.

The claims are spurious. As stated by Ngapuhi Kaumatua David Rankin (April 15, 2015), “Maori never owned water”. There is no cultural basis or historical precedent for their claims. Neither is it a Treaty right.

Water has always been a resource or collective asset under the control of the Crown for the benefit of all New Zealanders. Judge Anthony Willy and senior law lecturer David Round, amongst many qualified commentators, have pointed out “water like air occupies a unique status in the eyes of the common law — it cannot be owned by anybody”.

Prime Minister Key ( NZ Herald, Sept 15, 2012) in response to claims by Tainui said, “Nobody owns the water” a statement he reiterated on Radio New Zealand, Morning Report, (Tuesday, April 14, 2015).

Unfortunately the Prime Minister is being duplicitous as his statements are a typical smokescreen designed to avoid political backlash. Government ministers are planning on giving iwi special rights over water that are tantamount to ownership, by delegating the responsibility for such allocations to regional councils. These councils have already appointed undemocratic co-governance boards that have a 50 per cent component of unelected, unaccountable part-Maori. Dr Nick Smith in a Cabinet paper points to possible “catchment by catchment” deals at a regional government level.

The 1967 Water and Soil Conservation Act declared no-one could use any “natural water” without permission — a “water right”. The 1992 Resource Management Act continued these arrangements as “water rights” were redefined “water permits”, and are now granted and regulated by regional councils

The corporate iwi want a preferential allocation of water through changing the present resource consent permit system to a race-based rights regime. This attempt to gain control of public resources needs to be rejected by the Prime Minister and his government.

If the allocation of water rights is a foregone conclusion that can be blamed on local government, does this fit into government plans for privatisation of national assets? The electorate has a right to know the truth.

Sir Roger Douglas pointed out, “No political leader in recent times has had the political capital of John Key, but at the end of his term people will ask with justification — What did he achieve?”

He won’t be remembered for his pony-tail fiasco or his $26 million red herring on producing a new flag, but his legacy will be in three terms his government subverted democracy sufficiently to lay the foundation for a neo-apartheid state.

It began with his approval in 2008 of the flying of the separatist flag on public occasions. This was followed with the repeal of the Foreshore and Seabed Act despite 77 per cent of the public being opposed to its repeal, and 92 per cent opposed to privatising coastal areas for Maori.

The surreptitious signing of the United Nations Charter on the Rights of Indigenous was a cravenly stupid decision. Indigeneity challenges the foundations of democracy whilst promoting the ideology of separatism.

This ideology of separate development and governance will haunt the New Zealand public for years to come.

At odds with his party manifesto, Key has perpetuated the special privilege that exists in health, education, and in proliferating co-governance arrangements for unelected, unaccountable part-Maori on local body boards, trusts and committees. All this is done at the expense of 85 per cent of our population. The Whanau Ora fiasco is another initiative that has crashed and is a waste of taxpayer funds.

My grandchildren are faced with the prospects of living in a neo-apartheid state with democratic rights and principles a distant memory. Leadership in the interests of all New Zealanders and their need for equality within the law is badly needed. The water issue is a sad commentary on deteriorating race relations in New Zealand