Maori must work together and not let the government divide and rule them again on the issue of water rights, Maori King Tuheitia has told a national hui.
About 1000 people gathered at Turangawaewae Marae in Ngaruawahia on Thursday for the hui on water rights called by King Tuheitia.
The meeting follows the government's decision to delay the partial sale of state-owned energy company Mighty River Power.
The delay was prompted by a Waitangi Tribunal report saying Maori have property rights to water and those rights should be settled before shares in state-owned energy companies are sold.
The national hui is an opportunity for Maori to come up with a collective strategy on water ownership rights.
King Tuheitia said that while Maori have secured co-management of the Waikato river, they still don't have control of the resource or power to allocate water.
"Those functions still sit with regional councils. The ultimate goal is for Maori to take back these roles from the council," he said.
"In the eyes of our people, Pakeha law was set up to minimise our mana and maximise their own. it has stripped from us all those things important to our wellbeing."
King Tuheitia said Maori must work together on the issue of water rights.
"We must not allow the government to divide and rule us again."
Earlier, Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples also emphasised the need for a united approach.
Maori Council co-chair Sir Eddie Durie told the hui the partial sale of Mighty River Power assumes that nobody, Maori included, has a proprietary interest in the resource.
"Once the shares have been sold we have created a large body of investors strongly opposed to the recognition of Maori interests because it's going to affect their share values."
Sir Eddie said the nature of Maori proprietary interests in water must be fixed before iwi and hapu can negotiate with the crown over their rights.
Prime Minister John Key announced last week that no government ministers or National Party MPs would attend the meeting.
However, Maori Affairs Minister Mr Sharples is attending in his capacity as Maori Party co-leader.A number of Labour Party MPs, including Maori Affairs spokesman Parekura Horomia, are at the hui, along with Mana Party leader Hone Harawira and Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei.
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