Undiscovered resources do not constitute wealth [updated]
The Waitangi Tribunal says that Maori can own water and do own water—and the government should “negotiate” before selling shares in power generators.
I argue that water can be owned, that water rights can be proven, and that anyone who is able to prove suitable attachment to a resource is entitled to lay a claim to it under common law. Which is a good thing.
Strange however that the Maori Council’s claim that iwi own river water only came about when a Waitangi windfall was in the offing. Before that the resource lay unclaimed.
That is telling.
Because not only was the resource not being used both continuously (as proof of ownership) and unchallenged (as if it were owned)—both conditions being requirements for recognising property rights under common law—the fact water could be a resource to iwi for power generation had not even been recognised. And nor could it.
And as Gary Judd argues, undiscovered resources like this do not constitute wealth.
UPDATE: John Key’s only programme for this term involved half-selling a small number of assets. And now they won’t be..