In short, most of the land and resource claims are pretty similar. Prior to European arrival, tangata whenua had mana for their rohe and everything within it. If tangata whenua have not given that mana to someone else, then they must retain responsibility (mana/ rangatiratanga). It doesn’t matter how many times the Crown says “but you can’t own [whatever they are currently trying to take control of]”. It doesn’t matter how much the Crown wants to take control or has always assumed that it has control of something, be it the coastline, radio spectrum, fresh water or anything else. If tangata whenua haven’t given it away, then responsibility must remain with them. Really simple stuff.
So why does it always seem so complicated?—Because it is in the interests of the Crown to make it complicated. It takes a really complicated argument to make anything resembling a case for Crown sovereignty (Moana Jackson calls these arguments legal magic), whereas tangata whenua arguments are straightforward. —Because many tau iwi want to believe that New Zealand has an honourable history and their culture is legitimately dominant, so they are invested in ignoring all the simple truths that tell a different story. Again, they must rely on magic to believe in Crown sovereignty.
Time after time, politicians show they care less about justice than they do about getting elected. Popular opinion is more important than justice, so it doesn’t matter how simple or straightforward the issues are, what the tribunal recommends, nor what the courts decide. It doesn’t matter how much money, time, energy, or lives tangata whenua put into their cases. It doesn’t matter what is fair or true. If it’s an important issue for the Crown, then the Crown will win—they own the game and they make up the rules to suit them.
As Key has said, and many instances show, Tribunal recommendations are not binding, so the Crown can ignore those it doesn’t like (eg, the Radio Spectrum claim). The Crown loses still more moral high ground, but it’s already buried under so much bullshit, what does a few more metres matter?. And if it loses in the courts, it can simply make up a new law (eg, the Ngāti Apa seabed and foreshore case). This is one reason why I hate this process—our people die fighting for justice in a system that is set up to fail them (eg, the WAI 262 claim).
But back to the freshwater case. Here’s some links in lieu of specific analysis:
- Audrey Young's summary of the freshwater claim (from Feb, 2012)
- Tapu Misa's column on ideas of property ownership and the claim: Water claim really about Maori's role as caretakers
- PDF of the interim recommendation by the Waitangi Tribunal that the Crown hold off any share float until the Tribunal reports on stage 1 of the inquiry
- Donna Hall’s summary of the interim recommendation
- Carwyn Jones’s summary: Tribunal requests crown to wait for water report
- Bryce Edwards explaining which method Key will likely use to ignore the Tribunal: Water claim – three possible paths for National
Enjoy. Or not.