If nobody owns water, what is the debate about?

…It follows that if no-one owns the water, those hotly divisive Iwi vs Kiwi debates about ownership are irrelevant. Instead, the question turns upon use rights, and how these can best be managed, in the interests of waterways and people alike.

Many are suggesting pricing as a better way of managing water. Where the use of water leads to private benefit – for irrigators, bottling companies, electricity generators, other commercial users or households, for example, that may well apply.

This flow of income, however, must be devoted to both waterways and the community in general. It must not be captured by private interests.

One way of achieving this would be to set up a Waterways Commission, perhaps headed by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment to ensure its independence from vested interests, funded by user charges for fresh water.

This Commission would be charged with working with communities – iwi and Kiwi side by side – to take care of waterways across New Zealand. It would be informed by both science and tikanga, and tasked to assist iwi, private owners and public bodies in the restoration of their local waterways (aquifers, groundwater, springs, streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands, estuaries and harbours).

In this way, everyone gains – both waterways and people. Farmers and other private owners, iwi and community groups alike can seek assistance for bush buffers and catchment plantings, and waterways can be properly managed and restored. There will be significant gains for biodiversity, carbon management, and New Zealand’s reputation as a ‘clean, green’ country. Kiwis and tourists can again enjoy the pleasures of safe swimming, paddling and fishing in our streams, lakes and rivers.

If there are better solutions, now is the time for them to be debated. This should happen out in the open, where ideas are ‘blown about by the wind, and shone on by the sun’ – as on a marae, or in a fair and open democratic society. We all have a stake in our waterways and in the future of our children and grandchildren. We must all have a say in how these controversial matters are resolved.

The problem here is that the issue hasn’t resurfaced due to a concern about conservation and use, but due to an opportunistic political hit by running anti-business, anti-corporate attacks aided and abetted by the Media party. This wasn’t a problem when all the other bottlers were happily carrying on for decades. It wasn’t a problem when our manufacturers and dairy and horticulture sprayed it all about with wild abandon.

No, it’s only become an issue because of Oravida, and Labour’s intention  to make it “smell to high heaven”.

Until we can divorce the politics from the argument, I’m sorry to say that any debate on clean waterways, efficient use and conservation will be captured by those who have political motives.


– Professor Dame Anne Salmond, NZ Herald

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.