Iwi made river’s guardian
Raukawa will have a role in the governance of the Waikato River following the passing of a law in parliament on Thursday.
The final reading of the Ngati Tuwharetoa, Raukawa and Te Arawa River Iwi Waikato River Act 2010 passed by 113 votes to five.
The Act creates a co-governance framework for the Waikato River where the three iwi and Tainui will be formally involved in the management of the river.
Raukawa Settlement Trust chairman Chris McKenzie welcomed the bill’s passing.
‘‘This legislation provides real momentum for iwi to participate in a partnership focused on the restoration and protection of the health and well-being of the Waikato River,’’ he said.
Mr McKenzie said Raukawa were impatient to engage in processes and policies that would reverse the pollution of the river – waters that had nurtured Raukawa people for many hundreds of years.
‘‘For too many years Raukawa and other river iwi were left as voiceless spectators to the devastation of our cherished taonga, the river – provider of food, transportation and spiritual cleansing.
‘‘Its waters anointed our newborn and farewelled our departed. It was a sacred provider to be nurtured and protected for future generations.
‘‘ Raukawa congratulate the Government for having the fortitude to bring closure to the very real grievance of iwi around the Waikato River.’’
Raukawa are also in the final stages of settling their comprehensive land claims, Mr McKenzie said.
‘‘If the Crown can maintain its commitment and nerve we are confident we will very soon be able to shut the door on grievance and focus our energies on meeting the cultural, social and economic needs of our people – more than 20,000 tribal members – and in assisting where we can to lift the communities we share.
‘‘Today is a day of progress for our people and this nation, and we look forward to assisting with the protection and restoration of the Waikato River,’’ he said.
Taupo MP Louise Upston welcomed the passing of the bill into law which complements the Waikato-Tainui Raupatu Claims (Waikato River) Settlement Act 2010 passed earlier this year.
‘‘ The Waikato River is an important resource. At 425km it is the country’s longest and most significant river,’’ Mrs Upston said. The Government recognises the strategic importance of the Waikato River to the wellbeing of all New Zealanders she said.
Minister of Treaty Negotiations Chris Finlayson believes the Act ‘‘represents a further positive step towards the on-going protection and practical management of a major natural resource.
‘‘It is cause for optimism not only for the Crown, Ngati Tuwharetoa, Raukawa and Te Arawa but also for the Waikato region as a whole.’’