Ngāi Tahu Representation Bill passes third reading in Parliament

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu welcomes the passing of new legislation tonight to reinstate Ngāi Tahu councillors to Environment Canterbury, ensuring future decision making will include the voice and votes of mana whenua.

The Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) Bill passed its third reading with 77 votes to 43. The Bill empowers mana whenua through Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu to appoint two councillors with full voting rights.

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu Kaiwhakahaere Lisa Tumahai says the passing of the Bill is a historic moment for Ngāi Tahu and iwi katoa around Aotearoa.

“I welcome the passing of this Bill, which gives our people official seats at the Council table as mana whenua of Waitaha (Canterbury). It recognises Te Tiriti o Waitangi and is a step towards Ngāi Tahu exercising rangatiratanga within our takiwā.

“I mihi to Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene for sponsoring this Bill and acknowledge his tenacity in pursuing this positive outcome. I also mihi to Environment Canterbury for its ongoing mahi to better represent the interests and views of Ngāi Tahu in the Council’s decision making.”

The two Ngāi Tahu councillors will be appointed through a rigorous process designed to select the very best candidates with the right skills and experience from more than 74,000 Ngāi Tahu whānau members.

“While ECan’s 14 councillors are held to account by voters at each election, our representatives are reporting back to their wider whānau and will be held to account at every hui, with our councillors expected to provide regular detailed updates.

“Our people will bring hundreds of years of mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) when making decisions alongside councillors about the future of our whenua, awa, mahinga kai and taonga native species. This can only enhance the Council’s decision making.”

Environment Canterbury works in partnership with ten Ngāi Tahu Papatipu Rūnanga who hold mana whenua within the Environment Canterbury boundary through a collective known as Te Rōpū Tuia.

Te Rōpū Tuia Co-Chair, Liz Brown says this isn’t the first-time mana whenua has had representation on Environment Canterbury, and its already a proven success.

“Under the National-led Government, mana whenua were represented on the Council, with the appointment of a Ngāi Tahu commissioner alongside six Crown appointments. Two Ngāi Tahu councillors were later appointed between 2016 and 2019.

“ECan has recognised the benefits of having mana whenua as part of the decision-making process. This has previously enabled a quicker, less contentious, and more streamlined process, which benefited everyone.”

With the Bill passing, Cantabrians will continue to have 14 councillors working alongside the two Ngāi Tahu councillors.

“I hope this Bill challenges our collective idea of fair democracy rather than the conventional model which can be a popularity contest. Sometimes to address inequity, we must take a different approach to the status quo which tends to favour the majority,” says Liz Brown.

Lisa Tumahai says Ngāi Tahu tīpuna (ancestors) have advocated over many generations for better representation and she hopes the Bill paves the way for other iwi to strengthen their relationships with local councils.

“This is an example for iwi katoa on ways they could work in partnership with their local councils to ensure they are part of the decision-making process,” she says. “Co-governance isn’t to be feared, we are stronger when we work together and give effect to Te Tiriti.”


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Background Information

  • Two Tumu Taiao (mana whenua experts) currently provide advice to Council on behalf of mana whenua. The Local Government Act 2002 does not allow the Tumu Taiao to have Councillor decision-making powers to vote at Council meetings
  • Under The Environment Canterbury (Transitional Governance Arrangements) Act 2016, mana whenua were represented on Council by two appointed Ngāi Tahu Councillors. The Act expired in October 2019.
  • Environment Canterbury and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu put forward a Local Bill which sought to continue mana whenua representation on Council. Unfortunately, the Local Bill did not proceed through Parliament at that time (April 2019).