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The Prime Minister’s deafening silence on the rights of Māori over freshwater is cementing a trend of indecisiveness on critical issues, Deputy Leader of the Opposition Paula Bennett says.

The Government has failed to confirm their position on freshwater rights after a Waitangi Tribunal report recommended that water could be owned by iwi and hapū.

“The Prime Minister must clarify that the Tribunal has got it wrong and that water is a public resource.

“National has consistently and reasonably maintained that no one owns fresh water, it is a resource all New Zealanders should enjoy and get benefit from. The Government cannot afford to play both sides on this issue, indecisiveness will cause a rift and divide the country.

“The Prime Minister’s hesitation on ownership only distracts from discussions around how we can best manage and improve this critical resource and take greater economic opportunities from it whilst maintaining its environmental integrity. 

“This comes a month after the Prime Minster stuck her oar in at Ihumātao and failed to take decisive action. There is now speculation that iwi will buy the land back. This raises concerns that the Government has set up a backroom sweetheart deal, an intervention that would be dangerous, costly and ultimately, unravel our Treaty process.

“This complete lack of initiative followed up by hollow waffle is what has come to be expected from this Government.

“The Environment Minister has made excuses for the Government’s indecision, saying ‘we have to be careful what we say in this space’. The answers to these questions are simple - No one owns water and the protestors need to go home.”

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