Co-governance of rivers delivers
Disclosure of interest: I have joint Pakeha and Maori heritage.
So my day-to-day life is, genetically speaking, a true example of co-governance in action.
All joking aside, co-governance arrangements involving central and local government working with iwi have added real value to protecting waterways in the Waikato.
River iwi and Waikato Regional Council have worked together closely and effectively on the proposed Healthy Rivers/wai Ora plan change for the Waikato and Waipa rivers in a way that has helped the efficiency and effectiveness of the process.
This co-governance has involved true partnerships and joint decision-making.
Until the 1990s, Maori values were largely absent from laws governing our natural resources, particularly water.
This meant Maori and their values towards ancestral taonga were largely excluded from decision making until the end of last century.
Therefore, a number of historical claims before the Waitangi Tribunal have related to environmental degradation.
More recent settlements between the Crown and iwi have required councils and other agencies to co-manage and cogovern natural resources with local iwi. This includes the cogovernance of the Waikato and Waipa rivers under Healthy Rivers/wai Ora.
Importantly, both cogovernance and other comanagement arrangements nationally have protected public use rights of natural resources involved.
In my view, when seeking to make good decisions, we need to weigh the positives and negatives of different options. Having more people involved in this helps ensure decisions are not only based on the ‘‘facts’’ of a situation but the values and experiences of all decision makers.
Co-governance has clearly helped broaden input into managing Waikato water quality issues.
There’s now real ownership by iwi of our common challenges and, most importantly, the solutions to those challenges.
Maori have brought values and experiences – such as matauranga Maori (traditional knowledge) that add richness to decision making, as does the fact that iwi have multiple interests, including environmental, social, cultural and economic.
For Waikato Regional Council, successful partnerships with iwi in the current and future cogovernance and co-management space in our region are a priority work area.
We have been worked hard to incorporate the legislative requirements of Treaty settlements into our day-to-day business processes, aiming for iwi partnerships to be business as usual.
Vaughan Payne is chief executive of Waikato Regional Council.