Thank you for joining us at this one hundredth and seventy third celebration of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.
Banks Peninsula is one of the three places that our Ngāi Tahu tipuna signed the Treaty as the way to take our iwi forward in a fast developing society and a future that was changing fundamentally.
Little did our ancestors know of what would occur in the years beyond putting their signature to paper – what it would take to find equal partnership with the Crown.
The sacrifices their children and their children’s children would make. The hard battles to create a relationship that would guarantee and protect what was ours: our taonga – our lands, our forests, our oceans and our waterways.
In the 173 years that have passed, we – iwi, hapu, whanau – have fought to achieve a mutual understanding of what true partnership means.
Throughout the country we’ve had periods of great, even violent disagreement and here in Te Waipounamu there is a long legacy of petitions and legal battles; all concerted action to bring about an equal partnership so that Māori and Pakeha together can move our country forward for the benefit of each other.
In the last 30 years, change has occurred. Tangible change. A realignment of the road ahead. Land marches in the North brought about significant change in attitudes. Laws were made to give effect to the Treaty.
We saw resolution to commercial fisheries in 1992. We celebrated 20 years of the Sealord Deal just last September. Sir Tipene O’Regan was the architect of that settlement. The return of these fisheries assets has been of great benefit to Ngai Tahu. With prudent and sustainable management, they will continue to be.
Furthermore, the culmination of years of discussion, negotiation and hard-work is represented by the Ngai Tahu Claims Settlement Act passed 14 years ago. This provided us with opportunities to utilise our lands and taonga that have contributed to our growth and prosperity as an iwi. As a result, our people are better off.
It has always been a responsibility under the Treaty for the Crown to right the wrongs.
But there is also an obligation on iwi to create a relationship with the Crown that will carry us forward in a mutually respectful manner. We owe this to our next generations. A strong relationship with the Crown will help prevent further wrongs being committed in the future and will ensure a prosperous nation for all.
So that is why we need to tackle the work that is still to be done.
Over the past few years, we have devoted resources to resolving long-standing issues over our rights and interests in fresh water.
The health of a country can be measured, among other things, by the quality of its waterways.
We have seen how sub-standard management can destroy waterways and our access to fresh, clean water. New Zealand has an image to uphold. We must do everything we can to live up to our pure reputation. We’re not there, but we need to try to get there.
This is a major issue for us, and we will continue to devote our resources to this until we have a definitive resolution.
The discussions around fresh water that we have had over the past few years will continue this year. We will work locally and nationally on this issue.
Our involvement and participation in the Freshwater Iwi Leaders’ Group is one part of this effort. This group has the mandate of the Iwi Chairs’ Forum (that mandate was renewed two days ago at Waitangi) to conduct active engagement with the Crown.
It is time for a management framework of fresh water in Aotearoa that gives effect to Māori rights and interests – to ensure there is appropriate provision and recognition of iwi rights and interests across all parts of the freshwater management and ownership framework.
We believe that direct engagement with the Crown is the best strategy for us to achieve this goal. It is only by facilitating understanding of our viewpoint and bringing the Crown alongside that we will find a durable solution.
Other iwi participating in the Freshwater Iwi Leaders’ Group concur with this strategy.
Is litigation the answer?
Some iwi and Māori groups have a different approach.
The Māori Council last year sought legal recognition of Māori rights and interests in freshwater through the Waitangi Tribunal, the High Court and now the Supreme Court.
That was taken in relation to the Government’s desire to sell down up to 49 percent of State-owned energy companies.
Ngai Tahu provided assistance to the High Court by filing our own affidavit that clarified our role, as well as the roles of the Freshwater Iwi Leaders’ Group and the Iwi Chairs’ Forum. As we stated at the time, it was filed to neither support the Crown nor oppose the Maori Council but to illuminate.
The legal action itself is the business of the Maori Council and the iwi or hapu that support it. It is the right of iwi to take any action they deem appropriate to assert their mana. But as I have stated, Ngāi Tahu believes that direct engagement with the Crown is the best means by which we will achieve freshwater goals.
Land and Water Forum
The reports from the Land and Water Forum have been helpful. The forum’s unequivocal statement that Māori rights and interests in freshwater must be resolved by the Crown in order for any future water management regime to be durable cannot be ignored.
The forum was meant to shake-up the way fresh water is managed in New Zealand. It has been a three- to four-year process. We participated in the forum from the beginning. Individually as a tribe early on, but later as part of the Freshwater Iwi Leaders’ Group.
We will continue to engage with the Government while it considers the forum’s third report. To that end, I wish to acknowledge the work of Minister Amy Adams. She understands what’s at stake and is a willing participant in these discussions.
While the conversation is a challenging one, progress is being made. The relevant principles, values and concepts over iwi rights and interests have taken time for people to understand and entrenched positions and misunderstandings have been largely overcome.
Nga Matapono Ki Te Wai
We believe that a substantive and meaningful recognition of iwi rights and interests in freshwater can be illustrated through a model that we call nga matapono ki te wai or principles of water management.
We believe nga matapono provides iwi with a means by which we are all able to express our mana, as well as meet our own obligations as kaitiaki in our respective rohes. It ensures that we are able to make the decisions over how our wai is used.
Nga matapono provides us with a framework where we can have freshwater limits and rules to ensure the quantity and quality of freshwater is high. We can protect the mauri of the wai. Nga matapono ki te wai will enable us to give effect to our own cultural practices.
And importantly, this framework will enable the economic benefits to be shared fairly.
Nga matapono builds upon the foundation of the Hopuhopu principles that were developed a year ago and endorsed at Heretaunga and at Rapaki last year.
One of the underlying foundations of nga matapono ki te wai is the protection of the in-stream limits – the quality of the wai and the usable quantity. We see this as a minimum requirement for a healthy body of water; an environmental backstop, and in-keeping with our obligations and responsibilities as kaitiaki and as the Treaty Partner.
Water above the in-stream limit, we believe, can be used by the community, including iwi. It is this part of the freshwater bodies that can take the form of an allocable quantum from which iwi maintain their rightful and equitable share.
Though this framework, iwi get to share in the benefits of water, just like others in New Zealand, but we also meet our obligations under the Treaty to protect and conserve our natural taonga through direct management – set by regulation or statute – of the in-stream limit.