Iwi made river’s guardian

South Waikato News - - FRONT PAGE -

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.’’

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