First visit by PM marks new accord
Raukawa welcomed the Prime Minister to their rohe for the first time on Thursday as the iwi and Crown signed high-level agreements of cooperation. South Waikato News editor Mathew Grocott reports on the day
Until Friday no New Zealand Prime Minister had been welcomed onto a Raukawa marae.
But John Key’s visit last week to Papa O Te Aroha Marae in Tokoroa marked a new era of partnership between Raukawa and the Crown.
Mr Key and several cabinet ministers and MPs were on hand to sign a series of accords with Raukawa.
Raukawa Settlement Trust chairman Chris McKenzie said the accords provided real momentum to a shared goal of working together to bring about real change for the people of Raukawa and the communities Raukawa share.
The accords were the highestlevel relationship documents that Raukawa and the Crown had mutually negotiated.
‘‘Today, the words of partnership enshrined in the founding document of our nation – the Treaty of Waitangi – stepped down from the pages and finally came to life,’’ Mr McKenzie said before signing the accords.
Mr McKenzie said the initial focus of the accords would be to strengthen dialogue and relationships as the groups worked toward a shared goal of enabling communities through partnership.
‘‘ This accord 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.
Raukawa Settlement Trust chairman Chris McKenzie and Prime Minister John Key sign the Raukawa Crown Accord.
Mr Key said there were many challenges facing the Waikato River as economic priorities clashed with environmental concerns.
Mr Key also said he hoped to return to the area in the new year to sign Raukawa’s comprehensive Treaty of Waitangi settlement.
Attending the signing with Mr Key were Minister for Treaty Negotiations Chris Finlayson, Associate Minister of Maori Affairs, Georgina te Heu Heu, Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Phil Heatley, Associate Minister of Local Government John Carter, Taupo MP Louise Upston and Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia as well as more than a dozen Crown officials.
Mr Heatley said Raukawa would now have a say over the ‘‘day to day use’’ of te Waikato River in their rohe.
Mr Heatley said he looked forward to working with Raukawa in setting fishing quotas for the river.
‘‘I’m delighted to know we’ll have people (from Raukawa) on the ground who know this river and love this river giving me advice.’’
Mr Finlayson said Raukawa’s leaders were practical, sensible, idealistic and determined to make the new agreements work.
‘‘Today is an example of the good that can come when parties work together.’’
Raukawa Trust Board chairman George Rangitutia said ‘‘it is clear that the damage to the Waikato River can not be reversed unless we all work together.
‘‘Only together can we succeed in restoring the well-being of this treasure.
‘‘Today we move ever forward to righting the wrongs of our past,’’ he said.
Mr McKenzie said Raukawa were impatient to begin processes and policies that would restore the river and its catchment, 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 degradation of our cherished taonga the Waikato River – provider of food, transportation and spiritual cleansing.’’
WELCOME: Prime Minister John Key, cabinet ministers, MPs and Crown staff are welcomed onto Papa O Te Aroha Marae.