National caucus feeling the water pressure

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The hard-hitting anti-Maori water rights campaign being run by Don Brash and Winston Peters is starting to hit home in National’s caucus.

It appears to be making backbenchers, particularly those from provincial seats, nervous.

One MP told POLITIK that there was growing anxiety within the caucus about the way the Government was handling the issue.

That concern had been transmitted to the Prime Minister’s office.

The caucus views mean that the gulf between the various parties over water reform is growing larger.

And as it does the size of the political problem facing the Government also grows larger.

Submissions on the Government’s “Next Steps for Freshwater” closed last Friday.

That document was silent on two of the key issues ---- what rights should be extended to iwi and then how water should be allocated between existing users, new users and Maori.

Most participants in the debate agree that until iwi rights are resolved it will be all but impossible to resolve how to deal with allocation issues.

Allocation is mostly about to deal with new water users; for example, how to allocate water to farmers who want to convert from dry stock to dairying.

Or the difficult challenge of how to allocate water in a catchment which needs to reduce its drawoff to meet nutrient runoff limits

Land and Water Forum chair, Alastair Bisley in an op-ed piece run last Friday conceded that allocation was technically and politically difficult.

“ Iwi rights and interests have still to be resolved,” he said.

“ No doubt further work will be needed on transfer systems, and on how to deal with over-allocation - but we cannot just wait for further studies. “

 Mr Bisley’s call for urgency is new. Twice in recent weeks, he has spoken to groups of National MPs --- at the party's Blue Greens conference and to the Local Government and Environment and Select Committee --- and his language has been more circumspect.

What his intervention last Friday may well acknowledge is a growing view within the National caucus that the only way to avoid a damaging political backlash from the party's own supporters will be to park the whole water allocation issue till after the next election.

Ironically, MPs say that one of the reasons for the backlash they are already getting from constituents is that the discussion document lacks any firm detail on iwi rights, only suggestions.

That vacuum appears to have allowed the hardline views of former National and ACT leader Don Brash and NZ First Leader, Winston  Peters to get traction among National supporters in the provinces.

Their opposition centres round a section of the Consultation document which proposes that the Government will amend the Resource Management Act to establish provisions for new agreements between iwi and councils for natural resource management – a "mana whakahono a rohe" agreement.

The document says: “The mana whakahono a rohe will: •

•    be initiated by iwi through notice to the councils;

•    be available to all iwi but will not override or replace existing arrangements for natural resource management in Treaty of Waitangi settlements nor preclude agreement of different arrangements under a Treaty settlement

•    provide for multiple iwi involvements where appropriate and agreed

•    set out how iwi and council(s) will work together about plan-making, consenting, the appointment of committees, monitoring and enforcement, bylaws, regulations and other council statutory responsibilities • include review and dispute resolution processes.

Dr Brash attended one of the Consultation meetings and in his report said: “All this goes very much further than “consultation” and opens the door to endless delays and, at worst, corruption as those whose vital interests are held hostage to this long drawn-out process resort to payments to short-circuit it.  At the very least, it gives iwi a seat at the decision-making table simply by virtue of race or ancestry – and that has nothing to do with democracy as normally understood.”

Mr Peters has been on the warpath since his State of the Nation speech in Orewa back in january when he claimed: “Iwi really want much, much more. If you don’t believe that go online and Google it you.

“The Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group late last year stated their goals and objectives.

“They are: Ownership of all Crown-owned river & lake beds and the water column; Title in freshwater consistent with Waitangi Tribunal rulings.”

There is a simple way to resolve the Maori claims and that is to assign a price to water and have all users pay for what they use.

This was supported in submissions on the Consultation document by both the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment and the Environmental Defence Society.

But Federated Farmers remains adamantly opposed to putting a price on water.

And current thinking within the Beehive is that any move which raised the cost of farming at a time when the dairy payout is so low would be electoral suicide.

Mr Bisley’s Op-Ed piece was greeted by Beehive sources with the view that he was out ahead of Ministerial views on water.

And Caucus sources say that the Minister is out ahead of them.

In many ways the whole business sis reminiscent of the Safety in Employment row from last year when the provincial MPs within National's caucus forced a review of the proposed legislation.

This time, their goal will be to delay any decision-making.

So it looks like the next challenge for the Minister, Nick Smith, will be to explain why he is not going to act immediately on the Consultation document and the submissions he has received back on it.

 

 

The hard-hitting anti-Maori water rights campaign being run by Don Brash and Winston Peters is starting to hit home in National’s caucus.
It appears to be making backbenchers, particularly those from provincial seats, nervous.
One MP told POLITIK that there was growing anxiety within the caucus about the way the Government was handling the issue.
That concern had been transmitted to the Prime Minister’s office.
The caucus views mean that the gulf between the various parties over water reform is growing larger.
And as it does the size of the political problem facing the Government also grows larger.
Submissions on the Government’s “Next Steps for Freshwater” closed last Friday.
That document was silent on two of the key issues ---- what rights should be extended to iwi and then how water should be allocated between existing users, new users and Maori.
Most participants in the debate agree that until iwi rights are resolved it will be all but impossible to resolve how to deal with allocation issues.
Allocation is mostly about to deal with new water users; for example, how to allocate water to farmers who want to convert from dry stock to dairying.
Or the difficult challenge of how to allocate water in a catchment which needs to reduce its drawoff to meet nutrient runoff limits
Land and Water Forum chair, Alastair Bisley in an op-ed piece run last Friday conceded that allocation was technically and politically difficult.
“ Iwi rights and interests have still to be resolved,” he said.
“ No doubt further work will be needed on transfer systems, and on how to deal with over-allocation - but we cannot just wait for further studies. “
 Mr Bisley’s call for urgency is new. Twice in recent weeks, he has spoken to groups of National MPs --- at the party's Blue Greens conference and to the Local Government and Environment and Select Committee --- and his language has been more circumspect.
What his intervention last Friday may well acknowledge is a growing view within the National caucus that the only way to avoid a damaging political backlash from the party's own supporters will be to park the whole water allocation issue till after the next election.
Ironically, MPs say that one of the reasons for the backlash they are already getting from constituents is that the discussion document lacks any firm detail on iwi rights, only suggestions.
That vacuum appears to have allowed the hardline views of former National and ACT leader Don Brash and NZ First Leader, Winston  Peters to get traction among National supporters in the provinces.
Their opposition centres round a section of the Consultation document which proposes that the Government will amend the Resource Management Act to establish provisions for new agreements between iwi and councils for natural resource management – a "mana whakahono a rohe" agreement.
The document says: “The mana whakahono a rohe will: •
•    be initiated by iwi through notice to the councils;
•    be available to all iwi but will not override or replace existing arrangements for natural resource management in Treaty of Waitangi settlements nor preclude agreement of different arrangements under a Treaty settlement
•    provide for multiple iwi involvements where appropriate and agreed
•    set out how iwi and council(s) will work together about plan-making, consenting, the appointment of committees, monitoring and enforcement, bylaws, regulations and other council statutory responsibilities • include review and dispute resolution processes.
Dr Brash attended one of the Consultation meetings and in his report said: “All this goes very much further than “consultation” and opens the door to endless delays and, at worst, corruption as those whose vital interests are held hostage to this long drawn-out process resort to payments to short-circuit it.  At the very least, it gives iwi a seat at the decision-making table simply by virtue of race or ancestry – and that has nothing to do with democracy as normally understood.”
Mr Peters has been on the warpath since his State of the Nation speech in Orewa back in january when he claimed: “Iwi really want much, much more. If you don’t believe that go online and Google it you.
“The Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group late last year stated their goals and objectives.
“They are: Ownership of all Crown-owned river & lake beds and the water column; Title in freshwater consistent with Waitangi Tribunal rulings.”
There is a simple way to resolve the Maori claims and that is to assign a price to water and have all users pay for what they use.
This was supported in submissions on the Consultation document by both the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment and the Environmental Defence Society.
But Federated Farmers remains adamantly opposed to putting a price on water.
And current thinking within the Beehive is that any move which raised the cost of farming at a time when the dairy payout is so low would be electoral suicide.
Mr Bisley’s Op-Ed piece was greeted by Beehive sources with the view that he was out ahead of Ministerial views on water.
And Caucus sources say that the Minister is out ahead of them.
In many ways the whole business sis reminiscent of the Safety in Employment row from last year when the provincial MPs within National's caucus forced a review of the proposed legislation.
This time, their goal will be to delay any decision-making.
So it looks like the next challenge for the Minister, Nick Smith, will be to explain why he is not going to act immediately on the Consultation document and the submissions he has received back on it.
 

 

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