National | Elections

Te Tai Tonga candidates wade into water debate

Water has been at the forefront of a lot of political debate recently ranging from ownership, to introducing taxes, to cleaning up polluted waterways.

Māori candidates vying for Aotearoa’s biggest Māori electorate, Te Tai Tonga had passionate perspectives over how the contention around the management of water in New Zealand should be dealt with.

Te Tai Tonga incumbent Rino Tirikatene agreed pollution in waterways is a major issue and said it is a priority for Labour to clear up the issue by taxing commercial users.

“We’re about protecting out taonga, our water ways and we need to clean them up. Everyone knows how polluted they are. We want to make sure big commercial users who access our water to make a profit contribute a royalty so they contribute to the clean-up.”

Māori Party candidate, Mei Reedy-Taare quickly interjected arguing the longstanding question of who owns the water should take precedence, before implementing any taxes.

“We shouldn’t be talking about royalties and taxes, we should be having a kōrero about who owns the water. We haven’t yet determined who owns it and who can accept royalties and taxes. That’s what the Māori Party believes we should be doing. Labour thinks everyone owns the water and of course National thinks no one owns the water but in fact the Treaty of Waitangi and the Waitangi Tribunal say Māori own the water.”

Metiria Turei of the Green Party agreed that Māori interests in water need to be discussed and recognised.

“Iwi Māori and whānau Māori have customary and proprietary interests in water. They haven’t been resolved by any of the systems that have been set up because they have not been Māori driven systems. The Green Party support that Māori driven process.”

Like Tirikatene, Turei promoted her parties policy around charging commercial users of water, however she believes Māori should take a significant portion of the tax.

“We’ve said there should be a levy on all bottled water, so 10 cents a litre for all water that is sold off shore and in New Zealand because we do have start charging those who make a profit for the public resource they are taking. 50% would go to iwi Māori and 50% would go to regional councils,” says Turei.