National Fresh Water and Geothermal Resources Inquiry

In March 2012, the Waitangi Tribunal granted an application for an urgent hearing into two claims about Māori proprietary rights in freshwater bodies and geothermal resources:

  • Wai 2357 is about the Crown’s policy to privatise four state-owned enterprises (power companies) without first protecting or providing for Māori rights in the water resources used by the companies.
  • Wai 2358 is about the Crown’s resource management reforms, which the claimants say are happening without a plan to recognise and provide for Māori rights and interests in water.

In May 2012 the Tribunal decided to hear the two claims together. The inquiry was divided into two stages. This allowed for the most urgent part of the inquiry – Māori water rights and the impact of the imminent sale of shares in one of the four state-owned power companies – to be heard first.

Stage 1 of the inquiry

Hearings for Stage 1 of the inquiry were held in July 2012. The hearings dealt with Māori water rights as at 1840, and the impact of the Crown’s proposed sale of shares in State-owned power companies. The Tribunal released an interim Stage 1 report in August 2012 and its final report in December 2012.

Read the final report (external link)

The Tribunal came to the view that:

‘[T]here is a nexus between the asset to be transferred (shares in the power companies) and the Māori claim (to rights in the water used by the power companies), sufficient to require a halt if the sale would put the issue of rights recognition and remedy beyond the Crown’s ability to deliver.’ 

Stage 2 of the inquiry

In June 2015, the Tribunal determined the inquiry was no longer urgent, as there was no longer an imminent Crown action. There had been delays in the Crown’s development of policy options for freshwater reforms that relate to Māori rights and interests in water. Instead, the inquiry would remain one of ‘priority’.  Stage 2 of the inquiry may go to hearing and then reporting on freshwater issues after February 2016.

Stage 2 of the inquiry may focus on the following question, as noted by the Tribunal in its June 2015 directions. 

‘Which reform options need to be implemented and/or adjusted by the Crown in order to ensure that Māori rights and interests in specific water resources, as found by the Tribunal at Stage 1, are not limited to a greater extent than can be justified in terms of the Treaty?’

Members of the Tribunal panel

The Tribunal inquiry panel consists of:

Search inquiry documents (external link)

Contact the staff inquiry team

The Wai 2358 inquiry staff team are:

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