The Crown and Whanganui Iwi negotiators have initialled the Whanganui River Deed of Settlement and Te Awa Tupua Framework Document which, if agreed to by Whanganui Iwi members through a ratification process, will settle historical Treaty of Waitangi claims relating to the Whanganui River, according to Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, Christopher Finlayson.
“Initialling this deed and framework is a major step to resolving a dispute with the Crown which Whanganui Iwi has been pursuing through the Courts since 1873,” Mr Finlayson said. “The historical grievances require a unique solution that will recognise the intrinsic values and relationship of Whanganui Iwi with the Whanganui River, while providing a foundation for iwi and the community to work together for the health and wellbeing of the river.”
Finlayson says the Whanganui River Deed of Settlement and Te Awa Tupua framework do three key things:
- The settlement will address and settle longstanding historical grievances of Whanganui Iwi in relation to the Whanganui River in a way that will recognise the innate relationship between iwi and the river for the first time;
- The settlement will recognise the river as Te Awa Tupua, an integrated living whole from the mountains to the sea and which is intrinsically connected to the iwi, with its own legal identity; and
- The Te Awa Tupua framework will bring together iwi and the wider community in a strategic process based on core Te Awa Tupua values. The strategy will consider the long term environmental, social, cultural and economic health and wellbeing of the river.
The settlement also includes $80 million in financial redress and the establishment of a $30 million contestable fund that will be available to persons, groups or entities seeking funding for initiatives related to Te Awa Tupua.
The deed and framework are now subject to ratification by members of Whanganui Iwi. If ratified, the deed and framework will be implemented following the passage of settlement legislation through Parliament.
Whanganui Iwi and the Crown have been in active negotiations since 2009. In 2011, the Crown and Whanganui Iwi agreed a Record of Understanding which set out a detailed framework for negotiations. In 2012, a High-Level Agreement - Tūtohu Whakatupua - was signed, which proposed a new framework based on the recognition of the Whanganui River as Te Awa Tupua, a whole and indivisible entity from the mountains to the sea.
The initialling of the deed of settlement and framework document is an important step to the final settlement of the historical claims of Whanganui Iwi in relation to the Whanganui River. Members of Whanganui Iwi now have the opportunity to ratify the settlement by voting. If ratified the Deed of Settlement will be signed and implemented following the passage of legislation through Parliament.
Te Awa Tupua Framework:
Recognises the status of the Whanganui River and its tributaries as Te Awa Tupua, an integrated living whole from the mountains to the sea.
Establishes the river as a legal entity with its own legal standing reflecting the view of the river as a living whole and enabling the river to have legal standing and an independent voice.
Will appoint two people to the role of Te Pou Tupua – trustees to act on behalf and in the name of Te Awa Tupua and uphold its status and promote its health and wellbeing. The Pou will be jointly appointed by iwi and by the Crown.
Develops a set of Te Awa Tupua values, recognising the intrinsic characteristics of the river and providing guidance to decision-makers.
Will develop a Whole of River Strategy. The Strategy will be developed by collaboration including iwi, central and local government, commercial and recreational users and other community groups. The purpose of the Strategy is to ensure the long term environmental, social, cultural and economic health and well- being of Te Awa Tupua. The group will have on-going roles monitoring the implementation of the Strategy, providing a forum
for raising issues and reviewing the strategy after 10 years.
Will vest Crown-owned parts of the river bed in the name of Te Awa Tupua. Any ‘landowner’ functions in relation to the former Crown-owned parts of the riverbed will be exercised by Te Pou Tupua.
Whanganui Iwi and the Crown have agreed to the establishment of a fund of $30 million as part of the settlement. This will be a contestable fund available to any person, group or entity seeking funding for initiatives related to Te Awa Tupua. The fund will be administered by Te Pou Tupua.
The framework also:
Provides for collaboration between river iwi and relevant local and central government agencies to review the existing approaches to managing activities on the surface of the river and to identify how to improve and better coordinate the management of these activities.
Establishes a fisheries co-ordination group made up of river iwi, relevant central government agencies, Fish and Game NZ and Horizons Regional Council. The group will co-ordinate fisheries management responsibilities in the river.
Allows Te Pou Tupua to establish and maintain a register of qualified people available to be appointed as Hearings Commissioners to consider resource consents relevant to the Whanganui River.
Te Awa Tupua framework has been designed to provide for existing ownership interests; continued public use and access rights; continued local government functions; and continued public participation in resource management processes.
Whanganui River Deed of Settlement
The settlement also provides specific redress for Whanganui Iwi:
Crown acknowledgements of breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi and its principles.
a Crown Apology to Whanganui Iwi for those breaches.
an agreed historical account of the relationship between the Crown and Whanganui Iwi in respect of the Whanganui River.
Cultural redress including statutory recognition of Whanganui Iwi’s relationship with the river and providing for the recognition of Whanganui Iwi customary activities on the river.
A financial redress package of $80 million.
Copies of the initialled deed of settlement and the Te Awa Tupua framework are available on the Office of Treaty Settlements’ website www.ots.govt.nz.
Questions and Answers
What does “initialling a Deed of Settlement” mean?
The Whanganui River Māori Trust Board and the Crown have developed and agreed detail for a Deed of Settlement to settle the historical claims of Whanganui Iwi in relation to the Whanganui River. This Deed of Settlement has been initialled by each party. The Whanganui River Māori Trust Board will now seek ratification (approval) from the wider claimant community for the proposed settlement. Whanganui Iwi members will have the opportunity to vote on whether to accept the settlement.
If ratified, the Deed of Settlement will be formally signed by Whanganui Iwi and the Crown, and then implemented following the passage of legislation.
What Is Te Awa Tupua?
Te Awa Tupua is a description of the river system as a whole from the mountains to the sea including its tributaries and all its physical and metaphysical elements.
To Whanganui iwi it refers to the River as a whole, its spiritual and physical dimensions and their unity and connection with the River encapsulated by the tribal proverb:
“Ko au te awa. Ko te awa ko au” (I am the river. The river is me).
There is no literal translation of Te Awa Tupua in English, but it embraces the spiritual aspects of the River and the intrinsic interrelationship of people with it.
Te Awa Tupua is not a geographic place name, but recognises that the river system as a whole has certain interests and intrinsic values of its own.
The main stem of the River will continue to be known as the Whanganui River.
Will private owners of the riverbed be affected by the agreement?
No. They will retain the same rights after any settlement as before.
Statutory recognition of Te Awa Tupua unites the river for the purposes of advocating for the interests of the river and enhancing decision-making processes. It does not give the Guardians of Te Awa Tupua decision-making rights over private property.
Through the development of the Whole of River Strategy, private landowners and other interest persons will have direct input into the long-term future of the River.
Will public access to the River be affected?
No. The proposed arrangements will not affect public access or use of the River. Neither the guardians of Te Awa Tupua or Whanganui Iwi will have the power to charge for or to limit public access.
Will the Iwi own the River after this agreement?
No. These arrangements do not provide for iwi ownership. Whanganui Iwi do not view their relationship with the River in terms of ownership, rather they contend that the River “owns” the Iwi, meaning that the Iwi has obligations and responsibilities toward the River and the agreement reflects that.
The Iwi’s priority is to have the status of the River recognised and to ensure its health and wellbeing.
The focus of Whanganui Iwi is on the exercise of duties and responsibilities, with all members of the catchment community playing their part in developing the best approach for the River as a whole, not on the creation or assignment of rights and interests.
Who will own the River after this agreement?
No one owns the River now as a complete entity and no one will own it after this agreement.
However there are a range of ownership interests in parts of the River including the riverbed.
The Crown owns a significant part of the riverbed in the main stem of River, which is currently administered by the Commissioner of Crown Lands. The Department of Conservation also holds parts of the riverbed under conservation legislation. These parts of the riverbed that are held by the Crown will now be held in the name of Te Awa Tupua and landowner functions undertaken by the Guardians.
Any privately owned parts of the riverbed or other private property interests will not be affected.
Does this agreement affect water rights or create ownership of water?
No, neither Whanganui Iwi nor Te Awa Tupua will own the water and no water rights will be created through the agreement.
Whanganui Iwi do not view the River or its waters in terms of ownership in a legal sense. In their view, the River as a whole and its waters can't be "owned". This is not inconsistent with the Crown’s view that no one owns the water in the River.
Whanganui Iwi are involved in discussions with the Crown in relation to freshwater management issues at a national level as the Crown continues to review its policy in that area. Whanganui Iwi have made it clear that they seek to advance such issues through engagement at a leadership level, not litigation. They are focused on the development of a sustainable freshwater management framework for NZ which appropriately balances economic and environmental interests and recognises the cultural and economic interests of Maori alongside existing stakeholders and the public.
What is the role of the Te Pou Tupua - the Guardians of Te Awa Tupua?
The Guardians act like trustees. The Guardians will be people of high standing and their primary long-term role will be to influence and advocate for the River and its wellbeing and seek to uphold the River Values. In addition, the Guardians will exercise landowner responsibilities in relation to that part of the riverbed currently owned by the Crown that is vesting in Te Awa Tupua.
What does the Whole of River Strategy do?
The Whole of River Strategy will identify issues for the environmental, social, cultural and economic health and wellbeing of Te Awa Tupua, and provide a strategy and recommended actions for addressing those issues. Local government will consider and take into account the Strategy in its regional and district plans. It does not require mandatory compliance or give iwi a veto, or change the administration of local government decision making..
The intention of Whanganui Iwi and the Crown is that the Whole of River Strategy and its development will act help to re-frame and create consensus around how to improve the river’s wellbeing at a high level, by involving river stakeholders and the wider community.
The Whole of River Strategy will identify solutions to strategic issues and make recommendations to the relevant local authorities and the Crown.
It will build on a number of existing River and catchment initiatives.
This approach is about strategic direction and the lens through which the River is viewed, not day to day management. The current regulatory regime remains and councils will continue to make plans and grant resource consents.
Are the public represented?
The River Strategy and River Values together encapsulate the innate values of the River and the wider community’s interest in the River. Iwi have always been clear on their desire for the wider River community to be involved.
Local government - the Whanganui District Council, Stratford District Council, Ruapehu District Council and Horizons Regional Council – worked closely with Whanganui Iwi and the Office of Treaty Settlements on the detail of the agreement. Whanganui Iwi also discussed the development of the agreement with other stakeholders including recreation, farming and tourism interest. Local bodies and other catchment stakeholders will be major participants in the development of the Whole of River Strategy.
What will the agreement mean for the catchment community?
The agreement aims to build on existing catchment initiatives – such as the Whanganui River Catchment Strategy – aimed at protecting and improving the health and wellbeing of the river. All catchment stakeholders will have a role in the development of the Whole of River Strategy once the agreement is completed and implemented through legislation.
Will the review of surface activities lead to restriction of existing activities on the river?
No, that is not the intention of the review. The review has been sought by Whanganui Iwi and stakeholders in the river such as the local bodies. It is intended to look at developing a more effective management framework for management of surface activities. As stated in the settlement summary, Te Awa Tupua framework will not affect existing ownership, use or public access rights.
Will the possible new customary fishing regulatory process be different from the national process?
Any new process will focus on the best way of meeting needs of the iwi with interests in the river.
Will it apply to just the Whanganui river and its tributaries or to other rivers and streams in the Whanganui iwi rohe?
That will be determined by the review
How long will the settlement process take from here?
The Te Awa Tupua Framework and the Whanganui River Deed of Settlement are now subject to ratification by the members of Whanganui iwi. If ratified, the Deed and framework agreement will be signed by the Crown and Trust Board and implemented by settlement legislation.