Wairarapa iwi opposes three waters 'not co-governance'

By Contributor

More than 40 iwi in Entity C of the bill will have their voices reduced to six positions, says Rangitāne o Wairarapa. (File image) Photo: RNZ / Sally Round

By Emily Ireland, Local Democracy Reporter

A Wairarapa iwi says parts of the Water Services Entities Bill will remove and diminish its voice and autonomy from water conversations.

In its bill submission, Rangitāne o Wairarapa said the proposal was "not co-governance" and instead removed its authority regarding water.

It said there were more than 40 iwi in Entity C, which would have their voices reduced to six positions.

"This removes our voice from the governance and management space.

"We believe the Crown has an obligation to listen to and honour each of the voices of the iwi, not through consensus and not by determining six people represent 40-plus iwi."

The Water Services Entities Bill states regional representative group decisions are made by consensus if consensus can be reached.

In any other case, 75 percent must be in favour of a decision.

However, Rangitāne said this was "not how we work in te ao Māori".

"When the Crown has chosen to put our iwi into the Entity C grouping with 40-plus other iwi, our voice, kaupapa, and opinion of our people will be compromised if we do not agree with the majority.

"We at Rangitāne o Wairarapa were almost erased from our whenua by the Crown forcing our region to select one iwi.

"Our tīpuna, our whakapapa and our voice will not be silenced again."

It said having legislation like this meant those who took issue with something would be treated as "outsiders".

As per legislation, water services entities would have a two-tier governance structure: a regional representative group (RRG), and an independent, competency-based, professional board.

Half the members of the RRG would be appointed by councils and must be elected members or council chief executives.

They can also be senior council managers if they have the appropriate knowledge, skills, and experience.

The other half of the RRG would be mana whenua representatives through iwi and hapū appointments.

The role of the RRG is to set the strategic direction of the water services entity and appoint a professional board based on appropriate knowledge, skills, and experience.

The RRG also reviews the performance of the entity.

Rangitāne said the RRG and board would need to ensure that their environments were "culturally safe and inclusive".

"These types of committees and boards are often unsafe for Māori individuals to participate in.

"There is no detail within the bill about the protection of Māori data sovereignty at all levels.

"If mātauranga [knowledge] is shared, through Te Mana o te Wai statements, then this mātauranga must be protected.

"It is the obligation of the Crown, and any entity they delegate responsibilities to, to uphold the protection of our mātauranga and honour te Tiriti o Waitangi."

They said water supplies on marae and papakāinga (housing developments on ancestral land) should be governed, managed, and operated by mana whenua.

Rangitāne agreed with the government that the status quo with water services could not continue and generally supported the purpose of the bill, which was to provide healthier water to people.

"We support the changes and legislation that calls for working early with tangata whenua, hapū and iwi, as well as incorporating mātauranga Māori and giving effect to Te Mana o te Wai.

"Whilst Rangitāne congratulates Crown for recognising and acknowledging Te Tiriti o Waitangi, it is our assertion that the Crown must go further than 'give effect to the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi/Treaty of Waitangi'.

"Rather, the Crown must aim to honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi."

The Department of Internal Affairs will respond to matters raised in submissions on the Water Services Entities Bill during the select committee process. It would not comment on Rangitāne o Wairarapa's submission at this point.

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air