Iwi leaders’ water claim “nothing but corporate greed”

Press Release – David Rankin

Iwi leaders’ water claim “nothing but corporate greed” says Ngapuhi academic

As iwi leaders from around the country meet to discuss claiming commercial rights to all the country’s lakes, rivers, reservoirs, dams and any other fresh water, Ngapuhi academic David Rankin has questioned their motives.
Mr Rankin, who is currently undertaking a PhD on traditional property rights, points out that prior to the arrival of Europeans in New Zealand, Maori never owned water. And even after Europeans arrived, Maori never owned water. He says that there is no cultural basis or historical precedent for the claim. Neither is water Treaty right according to him “Water is not mentioned in the Treaty once. ‘Taonga’ are mentioned, but these are not property rights. A ‘taonga’ traditionally was something that could be acquired at the point of a spear. Try doing that with water”, he says.

Mr Rankin believes that the attempts by iwi leaders to grab hold of water rights is just a case of opportunism. He sees a pattern emerging where if Maori leaders thump their fists long enough about a resource, they will acquire it. He points to the foreshore and seabed, Auckland’s mountains, some national parks, mining rights, forestry rights, and radio frequencies as examples.

“Tribal trusts boards are not about Maori, they use the iwi names as a front for their commercial ventures. The average Maori receives as much benefit from them as the average European: none,” says Mr Rankin. “As proof of this, even though iwi now measure their wealth in the billions of dollars, Maori are poorer now than at any other time in living memory”.


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