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 there was no imminent Crown action to justify the continued urgent status of this 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.

In May 2016, the Tribunal confirmed the following to be the focus of the Stage 2 inquiry:   

1)    Is the current law in respect of fresh water and freshwater bodies consistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi?

2)    Is the Crown’s freshwater reform package, including completed reforms, proposed reforms, and reform options, consistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi?

  • To what extent do the completed reform package, proposed reforms, or reform options (including those proposed by the Crown in consultation) address Māori rights and interests in specific freshwater resources, as identified by the Tribunal in Stage 1?
  • Do the Crown’s completed reforms or proposed reforms or reform options omit to address Māori rights and interests? What, if any, limits in addressing Māori rights might be appropriate today in Treaty terms?
  • To the extent that Māori rights and interests are addressed, is the resultant recognition of those rights consistent with the principles of the Treaty?
  • To the extent that the Crown has omitted to address Māori rights and interests, or has addressed them adequately, what amendments or further reforms are required to ensure consistent with the principles of the Treaty?

The Tribunal has now concluded two hearing weeks in respect of the Stage 2 issues.

Hearing Week 3 - originally scheduled for 30 October 2017 to 3 November 2017 was postponed on 13 October 2017 in order for the Crown to receive instructions from the incoming government.

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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