Annette Sykes: “We belong to the water and the water belongs to us”

annette hikoi

Fightback argues for nationalisation of resources, such as water, under community control. In 2011 a Waitangi Tribunal claim, on proprietary title to water, challenged government plans to sell off private shares in power companies – particularly Mighty River Power.

Annette Sykes is a lawyer involved in the water claim, a Mana candidate, and long-time tino rangitaranga activist. Fightback writer Ian Anderson interviewed her on Waitangi Day 2013.

Fightback: What is the nature of the claim?

AS: The water rights claim arises from a number of claims that have been in place for several years, on the relationship that Maori have with water. Many Maori say that “I am the water and the water is me,” so this connection gives rise to a sense of identity. For many Maori that identity is threatened once those resources are taken out of public control and placed in private use.

So the claim goes to these aspects; the Treaty affirms a relationship between hapu, iwi and tangata whenua with their water-ways; that water-ways are vital to the survival and essence of life, once they’re taken out of public ownership into private ownership, it threatens the very existence and identity of those tribal identities; and those rights have been extant by virtue of the Treaty, and have been upheld by various iwi.

In this particular case with the Waikato river tribes, this has been upheld by various settlements, but there has never been any serious effort to give those settlements force, to prevent commercialisation of those resources. [Read more...]

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