Jo Moir reports:
There’s one hell of a stoush brewing in Cabinet over freshwater rights.
If there’s one thing water-related that Labour and NZ First will never agree on it’s giving Māori ownership rights to freshwater, and as for the Greens – they won’t have a bar of continuing any large-scale irrigation schemes.
So Labour want to give Maori ownership rights, but NZ First do not. And Greens are against any irrigation, while the other two parties are not.
Parker’s policy allows for a royalty on commercial water consumption, which will help with the cost of cleaning up waterways and resolving long-standing Treaty water claims.
It’s understood there’s huge tension between Parker and Crown/Māori Relations Minister Kelvin Davis, who is feeling sidelined by Parker’s determination to make progress on water rights quickly regardless of whether that’s the right approach for iwi.
The tension must be spilling over for the media to be aware of it. I wonder which Minister is briefing against the other?
Davis is said to be furious about the pace in which the OIO changes were pushed through, leaving no time for genuine iwi consultation, and is warning Parker the brakes need to go on before he opens the floodgates on freshwater rights.
Davis doesn’t want to lose his seats. He knows the Maori vote has left Labour before, and will again – if it feels sidelined.
The Greens are sitting on a supply and confidence deal with Labour that says no new irrigation schemes will be funded and the existing ones will be wound down.
Irrigation scheme operators are crying out for clear information on what that means but the advice seems to be almost non-existent as Labour tries to work out how to keep them and the Greens happy.
The Greens basically don’t seem to like anything that interferes with Gaia.
But that’s where Davis’ frustration grows further.
He was made deputy leader of the Labour Party during the campaign and to his credit helped unite the Māori vote behind Labour.
But he’s not in the inner circle in the same way Peters, Robertson and Parker are and it’s understood those feelings of being sidelined on issues like freshwater (where iwi relations are crucial) led to words between him and Parker ahead of Cabinet’s meeting on Monday.
Ardern and Peters were both in the Pacific leaving Davis as acting Prime Minister and chair of Cabinet committee.
But it’s understood things were delayed on Monday as Davis, Robertson and Parker had words about the way some issues were being progressed without fully considering the impact it would have on Māori.
Sounds like Robertson and Parker don’t see Davis as important, despite him nominally being their Deputy Leader.