Freshwater Update

Kia ora koutou,

At Rāpaki at the weekend Te Rūnanga discussed the recent developments in freshwater. Te Rūnanga supported the continued direct engagement with the Crown via the Iwi Leaders Group and the Land and Water Forum.

Key issues for Ngai Tahu continue to be:

  • Water quality
  • Sustainable use
  • Sensible regime for allocation
  • Retention/restoration of customary waterways
  • Fair and equitable consideration for iwi when it comes to economic benefits
  • Appropriate Treaty partner influence over management/governance of freshwater.

At a recent water hui at Tūrangawaewae Marae, a proposal was put forward to set up a new pan-Māori group to step in and negotiate iwi freshwater rights and interests with the Crown. I have set out below an extract of the presentation given by Sir Tumu Te Heuheu on Thursday as I think this neatly summarises the issues which came to the fore in the two hui held last week at Tūrangawaewae Marae.

“There has been much discussion and debate in recent times about how best to progress these issues.  The Governments stated intention to sell partial shareholdings in a number of State Owned Enterprises, some which are large users of water for hydro-generation has in turn generated a flurry of activity. 

We believe a number of issues have become conflated together under the banner of Māori rights and interests in freshwater.  We need to stand back and separate out these matters.

Let us be clear, our rights and interests in waters do not just exist on waters that just happen to be used by power companies.  And let us also consider this – even on those waters where the power companies operate, the power companies are but one of many hundreds of consent holders who have “rights” to use those waters.  We should not allow ourselves to be distracted from the bigger picture.

What I encourage us all to do is to think about what are the outcomes that will best meet our expectations for the recognition of iwi rights and interests in water.  As the Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group we have asked ourselves these questions – will having shares in a power company in the Waikato really make a difference to the people of the marae in the far north whose rivers are being polluted by bad farming practices? 

The Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group believes that establishing and maintaining an enduring connection and relationship with our wai now and into the future is in a contemporary context must be our primary objective. 

For the iwi leaders group that means:

  • being able to both express our mana, and meet our obligations as kaitiaki by making decisions around how our wai is used,
  • knowing we have set rules and limits to ensure the quality and quantity of the wai is sufficiently high to protect the mauri of the wai and enable us to undertake our cultural practices,
  • and equally, to share in the economic benefits of using our wai. 

As you will hear from others of the iwi leaders group today, the engagement we are having with the Crown is not just about our rights, it is also about our responsibilities, and it is about the mechanisms by which we can give effect to our responsibilities – to exercise kaitiakitanga – now and into the future.

The solutions we are seeking must be capable of being meaningful to the people of every marae and for waters of importance to them.  This means that there must be a range of mechanisms which are capable of being applied to every water body whether it is a spring, aquifer, river, lake swamp – whether that water body is in Te Tai Tokerau or in Murihiku. 

What the iwi leaders group have been advocating for is the tools which our people need to give effect to the concepts of Mana Atua – Mana Tangata – first we look after the water and then the well-being of the people will follow.

I am sure most of us have similar goals.”

Following these discussions the Iwi Chairs Forum met the next day and more than 45 iwi organisations who were present passed a formal resolution endorsing the Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group to continue engaging with the Crown in the development of a new freshwater framework for Aotearoa.

Te Rūnanga are mindful of the responsibilities that Papatipu Rūnanga hold as kaitiakitanga and know it is critical that the national freshwater framework must delivers results, which allow whānau to better manage freshwater in their respective takiwa. Te Rūnanga remains aware of our rights and obligation as responsible Treaty partners and the freshwater policy framework must give effect to the Treaty of Waitangi partnership.
We will keep you informed as this work continues.

Mark Solomon