Environment Minister David Parker’s bull in a china shop approach to resolving freshwater issues in New Zealand is hindering progress on an issue of real importance to all New Zealanders, National’s Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson says.

“Kahui Wai Māori – the Māori Freshwater Forum was established just two weeks ago to resolve issues around Māori rights to fresh water and is now teetering on the verge of collapse after iwi leaders pulled the pin over a lack of consultation.

“To be in this position at such an early stage is a defeat for a Minister who has stated he wants to be judged on his ability to make progress on water issues.  

“This is only the start of a long, drawn-out legal battle that could put us back a decade or more in terms of progress on fresh water.

“True to form Mr Parker has arrogantly dismissed the concerns of the iwi leaders. This Government continues to show that it thinks it knows best, that it does not want its ideas challenged, and that it’s quick to insult and denigrate those who disagree with it.

“Water policy remains a confusing mess for parties in Government.

“Before the last election, Labour, NZ First and the Greens claimed that solving water issues in New Zealand was easy.

“Labour campaigned on a royalty on the commercial consumption of water, which would include working with iwi to resolve Treaty water claims. However, as NZ First is opposed to Māori ownership rights that policy was canned when the coalition was formed.

“Meanwhile the Greens are still saying Māori have water rights, but as usual they’re sidelined.

“Winston Peters promised an immediate royalty on bottled water exports if he entered Government – but ten months later the Government’s been told by its own officials that this would breach free trade agreements, though Mr Peters and Mr Parker are also dismissive of that advice.

"National maintains the position that water is not owned by anybody. It’s a public resource and must be managed in the public interest. 

“However, we recognise iwi have a particular interest of water within their tribal areas and we amended the RMA last year to ensure iwi have a say in how councils in their region manage freshwater.

“The reason this issue is now going to court is the parties in Government created such high expectations and is now ratting on them.

“National’s approach was considered and moderate meaning we were making progress without ending up in court for nine years. This Government’s managed to end up there in little more than nine months.”

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