The Crown never disputed Maori interests in water and the word "ownership" is distracting the debate, the Waitangi Tribunal has heard.
Lawyers for the Crown this morning began their summing up on the final day of an urgent tribunal hearing at Lower Hutt's Waiwhetu Marae.
Yesterday, in his summation of the case, Maori Council lawyer Felix Geiringer said hapu involved in the case were seeking full ownership of water resources in their area and wanted the sale of state owned energy companies halted until their quest for redress was finalised.
Crown lawyer Kieran Raftery this morning told the hearing that Maori interests in water would not be impeded by the sale.
"Those rights are not altered or eroded by that action."
The question of ownership was important but this was not the time for definitions, he said.
"Common law in New Zealand is that there is no ownership in water."
However, the Crown had never disputed that Maori had rights and interest in water, Raftery said.
"The Crown has said now and will say it again... Unequivocally, the answer is yes."
Water was an important resource for all cultures and the Crown had an obligation to look after everyone's interests, he said.
"The word ownership is a distraction from the proceedings.
"Being fixated by this term is not helping."
The concept of ownership had caused difficulty in the community and politically, he said.
"We must find a common language."
News media reports about what the Prime Minister had said were also a "distraction".
John Key created a political row after he said the Government could ignore the Tribunal's findings and that the council's claim was "opportunistic".
Raftery said John Key's comments had been taken out of context.
Maori do not want to stop water coming out of the tap or prevent farmers having access to rivers, the Waitangi Tribunal heard on Thursday.
Geiringer told the Tribunal the claim was not about having an ownership plaque on the wall.
"People are being forced to lay claim to things that have always been their own."
Maori did not separate the water in a river from the river bed or banks, he said.
Water resources had always been, and still were fundamental, to all cultures.
Therefore it was reasonable to expect some sort of water rights would be available to all, Maori ownership "could not mean that anyone in New Zealand has their tap turned off".
That was unacceptable and against the Treaty of Waitangi principle of partnership.
And agriculture was the "lifeblood" of the economy and must not be sabotaged, he said.
The matter of water ownership did not have to be solved today but it needed to happen soon.
Geringer said that the Crown had breached Maori rights in regard
to water and should use the money generated by those breaches to
compensate hapu and iwi.
"The Crown has been breaching Maori water rights up and down the country."