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'Happy to correct the member' — Ardern and Collins clash over South Island public water ownership

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and National leader Judith Collins again went toe-to-toe over South Island public water ownership in Parliament's question time today.

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The PM ruled out ownership discussions with iwi. Source: 1 NEWS

Collins has been pushing the Government on what she says are plans to transfer 50 per cent of the island’s publicly-owned water assets to iwi ownership.

The Government and Ngāi Tahu have both denied the claim.

Today, Collins brought into the House a document she says the Department of Internal Affairs recently presented as the Government’s preferred option for water reform to 23 mayors and Ngāi Tahu.

"Why did the Department of Internal Affairs present as a preferred option to 23 South Island mayors and iwi a document proposing co-ownership of South Island drinking water," Collins asked Ardern while holding a document.

"Mr Speaker, they did not," Ardern responded.

Collins pressed forward with her claim, again holding up the document while asking: "Is the Prime Minister now telling the House that this document here that was presented to 23 mayors and iwi and says 'owners are the Canterbury Councils and Ngāi Tahu who are responsible for appointing members to the JGG,' is that not what it says?"

Collins' claim govt to transfer South Island public water assets dismissed by iwi

Ardern again replied that Collins' claims were incorrect.

"I am happy to correct the member. I am advised that, that piece of work was commissioned by Ngāi Tahu and prepared by PWC, and it's not something that Ngāi Tahu or, of course, the Government — who did not commission it — have been pursuing."

Collins then asked: "Who presented the document to the 23 South Island mayors and iwi?" She again asserted it was presented by the Department of Internal Affairs.

Ardern answered the question by stating the document was prepared and commissioned by PWC and has not been pursued by either Ngāi Tahu or by the Government.

As the debate continued, the Prime Minister ruled out joint ownership of South Island water with Ngāi Tahu.

"Public ownership has always been a bottom line," Ardern said.