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Waitangi Tribunal report on freshwater calls for courts to test ownership rights of Maori

A 565-page Waitangi Tribunal report on freshwater released 28 August makes sweeping recommendations about water management, allocation and ownership, and says the Crown should devise a new regime in partnership with Maori to allocate water, involving a national co-governance body.

The report also says it is time for the courts to decide whether Maori retain native title in water and a claimant group, including John Tamihere and one of the original claimants, Maanu Paul, have issued a statement saying they were "exultant" with the tribunal's stage two report.

Maanu Paul said he had split from the original Maori Council claimants because he was "firmly of the view that Maori always owned the water and still do own their water. "We feel absolutely vindicated," Mr Paul said. "Our claimant group had a very strong sense that Maori have always owned and controlled the water and no legislation had ever appropriated our rights of ownership. "The tribunal has now agreed with us."

"We have now instructed our lawyers (Janet Mason of Phoenix Law) and a QC to proceed with such a test case."

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