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Tupuna Awa People and Politics of the Waikato River

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Tupuna Awa People and Politics of the Waikato River – By Marama Muru-Lanning

‘We have always owned the water …we have never ceded our mana over the river to anyone’, King Tuheitia asserted in 2012. Prime Minister John Key disagreed: ‘King Tuheitia’s claim that Māori have always owned New Zealand’s water is just plain wrong’.

So who does own the water in New Zealand – if anyone – and why does it matter? Offering some human context around that fraught question, Tupuna Awa looks at the people and politics of the Waikato River. Marama Muru-Lannning introduces us to the way Māori of the region, the Crown and Mighty River Power have talked about water, ownership, stakeholders, guardianship and the river.

Those conversations culminated in 2009 with a Deed of Settlement signed by Waikato-Tainui and the Crown that established a new co-governance structure for the Waikato River. By examining debates over water, Muru-Lanning provides a powerful lens into modern iwi politics and contests for power between Māori and the State.

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