The claim in respect of the sale of shares in State-owned power companies is that the sales should not proceed until the claim to proprietary interests has been resolved. The presumption behind the share sales is that no one owns water, and Māori don’t have a proprietary interests in the relevant water bodies so that the shares can be sold, on the basis that the companies may use the water bodies at zero cost. However, it is important to note that the government, via local government mechanisms, issue resource consents and water permits for the right to use water.
Māori claims to a proprietary interest in water bodies have long been made and the Waitangi Tribunal has long accepted such claims in respect of certain rivers. Unfortunately, government has never formally responded to the relevant Tribunal reports.
Any government assertion that recognising Māori proprietary rights can be made later if the right is proven is offset by the failure to consider the proof already given and that the sale of shares on the basis of free water access creates a powerful interest group in opposition to the recognition of such rights in future.