Ngai Tahu hits back at claims of 'dividing Maoridom'

Mark Solomon, the chairman of South Island iwi Ngai Tahu, has hit back at Labour MP Shane Jones' criticism that the tribe has "divided Maoridom" by supporting the Crown in its legal battle with the Maori Council over asset sales.

Mr Jones said an affidavit supplied by Ngai Tahu to the Crown as it opposes the Maori Council's bid to halt the Government's asset sales programme in a High Court hearing next week, "splits Maoridom over the vexed issue of water rights".

The Maori Council argues the partial sale of Mighty River Power and other power companies may affect the Crown's ability to deal with Maori rights and interests in fresh water.

But in its affidavit, Ngai Tahu says the sale would not affect its own rights and interests.

In an opinion article published by the New Zealand Herald today, Mr Solomon said it was "unfortunate" the iwi's submission to the court had been made public before the hearing as "some parties have used it to score political points".

"Notwithstanding the recent comments from vested political interests, our affidavit filed in the High Court is not dividing Maoridom, nor should be seen as such."

The affidavit clarified the role of Ngai Tahu, the Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group and the Iwi Chairs' forum in the discussion about water rights.

It was supplied "to neither support the Crown nor oppose the Maori Council but to provide illumination to the High Court", Mr Solomon writes.

- Adam Bennett, NZ Herald

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