"Tangata whenua see the protection, care and conservation of the water resource as a key component of our rights and responsibilities around a taonga of paramount importance" said Tariana Turia.
"Ko au te awa; ko te awa ko au. We have a spiritual connection which requires us to meet the responsibilities inherent in guardianship. We recognise the mauri of the river as interconnected with the people, physically and spiritually".
"In this respect, WAI 2358 - which focuses on legislation such as the Resource Management Act and treaty policy - is particularly important in looking critically at how Māori interest in the water resource is valued".
"The hearing will resonate with indigenous peoples across the globe" said Dr Sharples.
"Article 25 of the Declaration on the Rights of indigenous peoples states that indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories, waters and coastal seas and other resources and to uphold their responsibilities to future generations in this regard".
"All eyes and ears will be on the Tribunal hearings this week as evidence is presented about water management, and any issues that impact on the Treaty relationship".
Dr Sharples said "the Council's claim is timely. The iwi leadership group is advancing discussions with the Crown about rights and interests in water; and the Government must soon respond to the Waitangi Tribunal's WAI 262 report on indigenous flora and fauna".
"Add to that the on-going work programme of the Land and Water Forum and the review of sections 6 and 7 of the RMA - and it is evident that a wider conversation must emerge around co-management; and about water rights and interests".
"The Māori Party intends to be listening to the evidence as keenly as the next - and welcomes the growing momentum for dialogue on such a key strategic issue".