Ngāti Kahungunu joins Ngāi Tahu freshwater court action

Feb 4, 2021

Two powerful iwi, Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Kahungunu, both of the Tākitimu waka, have joined forces in legal proceedings against the Crown.

Ngāti Kahungunu, the country’s third largest iwi, is working with Ngāi Tahu to have the tribe’s rangatiratanga over freshwater recognised, including the Mohaka River in Hawke’s Bay
Ngāti Kahungunu, like Ngāi Tahu, has seen the traditional waterways and water bodies in its rohe degraded over time through government inaction, overallocation, and lack of environmental protections, including the 2016 Havelock North waterborne disease outbreak.

“These issues can be addressed only through direct engagement between the Crown and the iwi whose freshwater are most affected by years of neglect,” said Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Inc Chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana.

Ngāi Tūāhuriri Upoko Dr Te Maire Tau said: “As Waitangi Day approaches, we call on the Government to honour its relationship with Treaty partners, which are the iwi of New Zealand, not working groups or national bodies.”


Notes for editors

  • In November 2020, Ngāi Tahu lodged a statement of claim in the High Court at Christchurch seeking recognition of its rangatiratanga over the freshwater in the Ngāi Tahu takiwā (tribal area).
  • The statement of claim seeks to address the ongoing degradation of awa (rivers) and moana (lakes) caused by the environmental mismanagement of successive governments, and to compel the Crown to address these issues in partnership with the iwi.
  • Rangatiratanga over water means Ngāi Tahu has rights, responsibilities and obligations relating to the freshwater in its takiwā, including doing what it can to stop the degradation of waterways and the environment.
  • The case is brought by 15 traditional Ngāi Tahu leaders from across the takiwā, and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu is represented by Kaiwhakahaere Lisa Tumahai.
  • The takiwā of Ngāi Tahu, an iwi of more than 70,000 members, stretches from Rakiura (Stewart Island) to the Nelson Lakes district in the South Island, and includes Te Waihora (Lake Ellesmere), Wairewa (Lake Forsyth) and the Mataura River
  • Ngāti Kahungunu is the third largest iwi in New Zealand by population. Its takiwā stretches from the Wairarapa to Wairoa on the East Coast of the North Island, and includes Wairoa Moana (Lake Wairarapa), Lake Ferry and the Ruamahunga river. The Wairarapa Valley is one of the areas of New Zealand with the worst water quality.