Agreement needed between NZ Māori Council and Iwi Chairs Forum on water rights

By Maiki Sherman

The perceived tension between the New Zealand Māori Council and the Iwi Chairs Forum may soon be laid to rest if an agreement is reached outlining the respective authority of both groups.

The New Zealand Māori Council says it is not in competition with the Iwi Chairs Forum and both groups have separate representative functions on behalf of Māori.

In recent years there's been confusion as to the overlapping roles of the Iwi Chairs Forum and the New Zealand Māori Council, in particular over the issue of Māori water rights and interests.

Council Co-chair Maanu Paul says this has allowed the Government to bypass the Council on national issues and deal solely and directly with the Iwi Chairs Forum. However, he's hoping that will change in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

Paul says the Māori Council must be present on the talking benches across from Government and they intend to write a letter to the Prime Minister requesting so.

An agreement with the Iwi Chairs Forum is also being sought by the Māori Council, outlining the extent of both group's authority. Sir Toby Curtis of the Iwi Chairs Forum says it's a good idea but they would need to discuss the matter first.

Paul says if the agreement is successful, the Government will have a harder time avoiding them.

At Waitangi last week, Paul certainly extended an olive branch to the Government, the Prime Minister though wasn't overly enthused.

Maanu Paul hopes to have an agreement signed by May with the Iwi Chairs Forum, while only time will tell whether the gesture of an olive branch will be reciprocated by the Government.