The world is facing a water crisis brought on by insufficient resource, poor management, corporate greed, political timidity and human ignorance. Indigenous peoples all around the world find themselves outraged by the profiteering of transnational corporations as they gain control over precious fresh water reserves and move to commodify the resource. Many statements have been issued pleading for restraint and recognition of the vital nature of fresh water not only for humanity, but for all life on the planet. This essay addresses issues surrounding fresh water such as ownership, and why neither privatisation nor government control are ideal. The major difficulties in the sustainable management of fresh water reserves at one level are technological, and at another philosophical – and neither private nor government sectors appear capable of resolving such issues of morality and ethics. The relevance of Māori social principles, such as whanaungatanga (a form of social capital that arises from human relationships) and manaakitanga (preservation of mana or respect), have been examined in relation to charges of moral turpitude made against transnational corporations offering insight into the social imbalances that result from ruthless business practices. Traditional Māori social principles evolved for the regulation of individual and group behaviours thus promoting various degrees of social harmony; the value of those principles, in a modern context, have been examined against a background of international water shortages as a means of providing insight into what has become an ideological war between neoliberals and humanitarian-centred activists. This approach allows for a Māori voice and a Māori perspective and at the same time helps validate an important foundation of Māori culture.

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