Te Mana o Te Wai (The Vitality Of The Water) statements are mechanisms to issue binding orders in regards to control of the 4 proposed entities to be created under the Water Service Entities Bill.
The entities will govern all freshwater in the nation and will be bound by the T Statements, which are to be the exclusive domain of the iwi representative members only. How these members are to be chosen is left up to the iwi to determine.
Non-Māori elected representatives will have no authority to either issue T Statements or override them.
They are part of the co-governance model Labour will attempt to enact on an unprecedented national level in relation to the 3 Waters reforms.
The T Statements have come under increasing criticism as of late.
Expansion of 3 Waters to 5 Waters and further ‘green infrastructure’
Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Committee’s report into the Water Services Entities Bill recommended geothermal and coastal waters also be included within the scope of the T Statements. In addition, according to a speech in Parliament by National MP Simon Watts, recent changes to the Bill sets up the 4 proposed entities to have ‘green infrastructure’ such as parks and reserves transferred to control of the entities.
The recommendations came without any opportunity for the public to have input.
Dubbing the reforms as 5 Waters, the move earned heavy rebuke from critics, including Winston Peters of NZ First and Simon Watts of The National Party.
According to the April 2022 Cabinet Paper, Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta briefed her Labour colleagues that the statements apply to all water. Section 157 and 158 of the document specifically says the statements’ scope should be expanded to include coastal water as defined under the Resource Management Act of 1991. According to the document, expanding the scope to all other waters fills an “obvious gap in the application of this holistic concept”.
After Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was seemingly caught unawares by reporters over the move, all mention of geothermal and coastal waters were taken out of the Water Services Entities Bill.
Mahuta then introduced a last minute supplementary order paper (SOP) to the Bill changing the scope of T Statements to relate to ‘water’ as defined in the National Policy Statement of Freshwater Management of 2014.
By using that definition, geothermal and coastal waters are picked up again but in a more obscure manner.
Mahuta justified the changes, which also refer to general water quality being important, as being critical to water security in light of climate change. Critics accuse Mahuta of ideological word games.
Who’s winning out of 3 waters?
Dr. Michael Bassett, the noted political historian, former Labour Cabinet Minister and previous member of the Treaty of Waitangi tribunal, has come out against 3 Waters reforms as what he calls “tribalism under the guise of co-governance”.
In an opinion piece posted to his website “Bassett, Brash & Hyde”, the historian and university professor, who was banned from NZME platforms for his scathing critique of Labour’s policy vis-à-vis Māori, accused Nanaia Mahuta of orchestrating a Tainui tribal takeover.