Govt announces new Maori Freshwater Forum


The new Maori Freshwater Forum will be a step forward in resolving water rights, IrrigationNZ says

The government’s recent announcement that it will establish a new Māori Freshwater forum to address Maori rights and interests in water may help provide future certainty for all water users, says IrrigationNZ.

"The Waitangi Tribunal has previously declared that Maori have rights in relation to freshwater. The new Freshwater Forum is potentially a step forward as it is in everyone’s interests for those rights to be clarified sooner rather than later so that all water users have certainty for the future," Andrew Curtis, chief executive of IrrigationNZ, says.

Environment Minister David Parker also said that a non-Maori freshwater forum would also be formed.

IrrigationNZ says that this forum needs to represent a wide variety of interests in freshwater and must have a close working relationship with the Maori freshwater forum.

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"We need to see environmental, community, and science organisations as well as councils, farmers and water users involved in the freshwater forum. The forum needs to be solutions orientated, informed by science and focused on the implementation of practical changes. To be successful everyone needs to be part of the discussion from day one," Andrew says.  

Maori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta said at the announcement of the new forum that "one of the biggest inhibitors of developing Maori land is the lack of access to water".

"With climate change bringing less reliable rainfall in the future, irrigation will become increasingly important to enable all farmers and growers to produce a consistent supply of food," Andrew says.

He added that it’s good to see the government acknowledge the importance of access to reliable water sources for agriculture and he hopes that this will be included in the new forums discussions.

Irrigated land is 20% of all agricultural land globally but produces 40% of the world’s food supply.

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