Ngāti Tūwharetoa could be first iwi to take over duties of regional council

By Te Ao - Māori News

Ngāti Tūwharetoa could be the first iwi to take over some duties of a regional council, strengthening its role as the kaitiaki of Lake Taupō.

Waikato Regional Council is proposing to transfer water quality monitoring within the Lake Taupō catchment to the Tūwharetoa Māori Trust Board.

Chief Executive Officer of the board, Shane Heremaia, says the idea came in partnership between the board and council.

“It’s something that we’ve been working on for some time and it’s great to see it coming to fruition.”

The monitoring would involve collecting water samples at five summer bathing beach sites in Lake Taupō during summer, assessing water quality at 16 regional rivers, and monitoring rainfall and groundwater.

“For us, we see it as an extension of our kaitiakitanga, of our responsibilities as an owner in terms of this monitoring. It’s an extension of what we’re already in our rights and responsibilities,” says Heremaia.

Councillors last Thursday heard that Section 33 of the Resource Management Act (RMA) enables a local authority to transfer any one or more of its functions, powers or duties under the act to another public authority. They then voted unanimously in favour of releasing the statement of proposal for public feedback.

“Once that process has completed then that information will go back to the Waikato Regional Council to make a call as to whether it wishes to proceed and at that point, the Trust Board will also make that decision as well.”

Tūwharetoa Māori Trust Board holds legal title as trustee and acts as kaitiaki over Taupō Waters, on behalf of the iwi. 

Taupō Waters include the bed, water column and air space of Lake Taupō and designated portions of the Waihora, Waihaha, Whanganui, Whareroa, Kuratau, Poutu, Waimarino, Tauranga-Taupō, Tongariro, Waipehi, Waiotaka, Hinemaiaia and Waitahanui Rivers, and the Waikato River to Te Toka a Tia, inclusive of the Huka Falls.

Waikato Regional Council chair Russ Rimmington says the proposal is an exciting and transformational proposal that acknowledges the unique ownership status of Taupō Waters.

“Having local partners on the ground with the technical expertise and skills would provide a range of benefits for this work, including fast response times if equipment is faulty or there’s a major incident,” says Rimmington.

Community and services director for the Waikato Regional Council Neville Williams agrees the proposal is beneficial for the iwi and council.

“Therefore it was deemed it would not only be efficient, cost-effective but also a good fit in the alignment of the aspirations of Tūwharetoa.”

The proposal will open for consultation for a month from June 8.