The Ngāi Tahu position on the water debate

20 July 2012

In a climate where all Iwi/Māori are working to protect their interests with water, Ngāi Tahu welcomes the undertaking of the government not to legislate over those rights and interests. So called divisions between various stakeholders are often more a matter of perception than of reality.

Ngāi Tahu believes its position on water is very similar to that of all other iwi, says Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu Deputy Kaiwhakahaere Lisa Tumahai. “Ngāi Tahu has always asserted we have pre-existing rights and interests in natural resources within the Ngāi Tahu Takiwā and that includes water. How those rights and interests are given effect to is an on-going challenge for our people.”

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, has a responsibility to ensure that the rights and interests of Ngāi Tahu Whānui with respect to water are upheld within our takiwā. To this end Ngāi Tahu has been participating in a number of forums such as the Canterbury Water Management Strategy and the Land and Water Forum.

In these forums we have been able to find common ground with other stakeholders and this has allowed others to come to better understand our intense customary interest in streams, rivers, estuaries and lakes throughout Te Waipounamu. We acknowledge the effort of our whānau and representatives of our Papatipu Rūnanga who are continuing to pursue this consensus/dialogue approach.

In addition, Ngāi Tahu is a member of the Iwi Leaders Group (ILG) on water, which was formed in 2007. This has meant that Ngāi Tahu, along with other iwi, has been involved in direct discussions with the Crown to look at ways of addressing unresolved issues. This dialogue has always been based on the premise that Māori do have rights and interests in water and the key issue has been how to give effect to those rights and interests.

Lisa Tumahai says, “It is not the objective of this group to make decisions in its own right, but to inform iwi who will ultimately make their own decisions.”

“While the issues are complex, we have been encouraged by on-going good will in all these forums and the possibility that this creates win-win outcomes.”

Lisa Tumahai says that because of its pursuit of solutions in these forums, and because the Crown has been open to discussion, Ngāi Tahu remains of the view that seeking urgent hearings before the Waitangi Tribunal was premature. However, at the end of the day we are simply choosing different pathways towards the same outcomes.

“Ultimately what we seek at a national level is a framework that allows for regional solutions that work for iwi as well as the communities in which we live.”