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 claim – which concerned the Crown’s resource management reforms, which the claimants said were proceeding without a plan to recognise and provide for Māori rights and interests in water.
The inquiry was divided into stages, allowing for the most urgent part of the inquiry to be heard first – Māori rights and interests in fresh water and the potential impact of the imminent sale of shares in one of the four state-owned power companies. The focus in stage two was on the Crown’s freshwater management regime and its reforms. Stage three of the inquiry will focus on Māori rights and interests in geothermal resources.
Stage 1 of the inquiry
Hearings for stage one of the inquiry were held in 2012 under urgency. The hearings dealt with Māori rights and interests in water as of 1840, and the impact of the Crown’s proposed sale of shares in state-owned power companies. The Tribunal released an interim stage one report in August 2012 and its final report for stage one in December 2012.
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 there was no imminent Crown action to justify the continued urgent status of the inquiry. The Tribunal determined that the inquiry would instead proceed on a ‘priority’ basis, noting the importance of the claim issues before it and the prospect of significant and irreversible prejudice to Māori. Hearings for stage two of the inquiry were held from November 2016 to November 2018.
The Tribunal released its pre-publication report for stage two in August 2019.
Stage 3 of the inquiry
Stage three of the inquiry will focus on Māori rights and interests in geothermal resources and Crown policies and practices in respect of those resources. This stage is currently in the interlocutory (pre-hearing) phase.
The following have been proposed as main issues for inquiry (Wai 2358, #2.6.76):
- Issue question 1: What Māori rights and interests in geothermal resources are guaranteed and protected by the Treaty of Waitangi?
- Issue question 2: Is the current law in respect of geothermal resources consistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi?
- Issue question 3: If the current law in respect of geothermal resources is not consistent with Treaty principles, what recommendations should be made for the reform of the Resource Management Act 1991? What other recommendations (if any) should be made?
Members of the Tribunal panel
The Tribunal inquiry panel consists of:
- Chief Judge Wilson Isaac (presiding)
- Dr Robyn Anderson
- Mr Ron Crosby
- Dr Grant Phillipson
- Professor Pou Temara
For all document requests for this inquiry, email: WT_Requests@justice.govt.nz
For all inquiry related requests, email: WT.Registrar@justice.govt.nz
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