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Waikato-Tainui Raupatu Claims (Waikato River) Settlement Bill — First Reading

[Volume:650;Page:19156]

Waikato-Tainui Raupatu Claims (Waikato River) Settlement Bill

First Reading

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations) : I move, That the Waikato-Tainui Raupatu Claims (Waikato River) Settlement Bill be now read a first time. At the appropriate time I intend to move that the bill be considered by the Māori Affairs Committee.

This bill achieves three important things. It recognises the special and enduring relationship that Waikato-Tainui has with the Waikato River, historically, culturally and spiritually, manifested in the dual principles of te mana o te awa and mana whakahaere. In so doing it provides a legal structure within which that relationship can be protected and exercised in the future, and which also recognises the connections that other iwi have with the river. Thirdly, it creates a framework within which all communities with an interest in the river can play a part in its stewardship. Each of the changes created by this bill focuses on the goals on which all river stakeholders can agree, the restoration of the health and well-being of the Waikato River and its sustainable management into the future. This is a historic achievement for Waikato-Tainui, for all other residents in the Waikato region, and, because it is the largest and most significant river system in the country, for the people of New Zealand.

When the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 it contained the promise of a lasting and mutually beneficial relationship between the Crown and Pākehā—sorry, the Crown and Māori; the other one we call an election promise when it is broken. Too often the promise and potential of that agreement have remained unfulfilled. This legislation aims to realise that potential and promise and to establish an innovative co-management regime for the Waikato River.

The bill establishes the Guardians of the Waikato River, on which all river iwi and regional and national stakeholders are represented. It sets out a vision for the Waikato River. The guardians are responsible for the vision for the river and the strategy to achieve that vision. The guardians establishment committee, set up following the agreement in principle for this settlement in December 2007, has already been hard at work and has completed a public consultation process to determine the vision and strategy, the key elements of which are incorporated and recognised in this bill. This provided a confidence-building process in which Waikato-Tainui and all other stakeholders—other iwi, regional interests, and the Crown—could begin to focus on what was required to restore the health and well-being of the Waikato River. The way in which all members of the Guardians Establishment Committee carried out their tasks, and the relationship they have developed, provides cause for optimism that this settlement will have a profound and positive impact.

The bill also establishes the Waikato River Statutory Board. This board, on which Waikato-Tainui, Environment Waikato, and other local authorities are represented, provides for Waikato-Tainui to participate at the highest level in the co-management of the river. The board will be responsible for the implementation of the vision and strategy, and for monitoring progress towards the goals that have been established.

To ensure the changes introduced in this legislation do not duplicate existing processes and create unnecessary additional costs for all parties, the bill integrates this settlement within existing regulatory frameworks by providing legislative recognition for the vision and strategy. The vision and strategy will be a national policy statement for the purposes of the Resource Management Act and a statement of general policy for the purposes of conservation legislation. Through a Kiingitanga Accord between Waikato-Tainui and the Crown, the bill will also provide the structure for future relationships between Waikato-Tainui and Ministers of the Crown and their agencies as they work together to restore the health and well-being of the river.

To ensure the relationships facilitated by this legislation can be sustained, the settlement provides funding for several purposes: to provide a $50 million fund for the Waikato Raupatu River Trust to undertake initiatives to restore and protect their relationships with the river and its flora and fauna, to provide for ongoing participation by Waikato-Tainui in the co-management framework established by this legislation, and to provide a $20 million endowment to support the vision of the late Sir Robert Māhuta, who led Waikato-Tainui through the historical settlement process and initiated the claims on which those settlements have been based. Finally, the settlement establishes a clean-up fund, with an initial Crown contribution of $7 million per year for 30 years.

The settlement is a clear and straightforward solution to a complex and difficult problem. The Waikato is our largest river system. It supports a complex, interlinked series of relationships in which human habitation is a major component. Long-term failures in existing management relationships associated with the river have seen the quality of this vital system compromised. Future generations, Māori and non-Māori, faced the prospect of inheriting a river system in a steadily degrading state. This settlement provides the framework within which that degradation can be properly and adequately addressed and funded, the river returned to health and well-being, and a sustainable management regime implemented, so that our children and grandchildren will inherit a healthy river.

In 1975 Sir Robert Māhuta said: “The River belongs to us just as we belong to the River. The Waikato tribe and the River are inseparable. It is a gift left to us by our ancestors and we believe we have a duty to protect that gift for future generations.” Sir Robert’s work has been carried on and fulfilled in this settlement under the leadership of his widow, Lady Raihā Māhuta, and Tukoroirangi Morgan. In introducing this legislation to implement the Waikato River deed of settlement we are beginning to carry out that duty adequately—in partnership with Waikato-Tainui—for the first time.

In closing these comments I would like, of course, to pay tribute to Waikato-Tainui under the leadership of King Tuheitia and to recognise the presence in the public gallery of his sister as his personal representative and his chief speaker. It is the determination of Waikato-Tainui that has placed the restoration of the health and well-being of the river at the forefront of this settlement and ensured that every aspect of this bill is focused on that goal.

This agreement builds on the relationship between Waikato-Tainui and the Crown that was re-established with the settlement of historical land claims. That settlement has been of great benefit to both Waikato-Tainui and the wider community. I expect no less from this settlement. Thank you, Madam Assistant Speaker.

Hon GEORGINA TE HEUHEU (National) : E te waka o Tainui, te awa rere ana e Waikato, ngā uri o Te Wherowhero, e Te Arikinui, mai i tēnei o Taupō Nui a Tia, he mihi, he mihi, tēnā tātou katoa.

[To you the canoe of Tainui, the river of Waikato that flows, the descendants of Te Wherowhero, and to you Tuheitia, this one of the great lake of Tia humbly acknowledges and recognises you; greetings to us all.]

I feel very privileged to rise to speak on the first reading of the Waikato-Tainui Raupatu Claims (Waikato River) Settlement Bill. This is a significant bill that has come into the House this afternoon, and having acknowledged the elders and the uri o Te Wherowhero in the gallery, and others in support, I want to turn—hopefully not too lengthily, because 10 minutes does go quite quickly—to the preamble, which sets out some of the essence of the emotions, the sentiments, and the passion that I believe the iwi bring to the House this afternoon.

Te mana o te awa is one of the principles underlying this bill. To Waikato-Tainui, the Waikato River is a tupuna—an ancestor—that has mana, prestige, and in turn represents the mana and mauri, or life force, of the tribe. Respect for te mana o te awa, the spiritual authority, protective power, and prestige of the Waikato River is at the heart of the relationship between the tribe and its ancestral river. Mana whakahaere is the other underlying principle that this settlement will proceed on. Mana whakahaere embodies the authority that Waikato-Tainui and other river tribes have established in respect of the Waikato River over many generations to exercise control, access to, and management of the river and its resources in accordance with tikanga—that is, the values, ethics, and norms of conduct that are special to this iwi. For Waikato-Tainui, mana whakahaere has long been exercised under the mana of the Kīngitanga.

Waikato-Tainui, as at 1840, possessed their river and their lands in accordance with their tikanga, along with other Waikato iwi. They made public statements of their authority over the river from very early, when they first became concerned that the Crown might itself claim authority over it, and that was as early as 1862. In July 1863, the Crown’s military forces crossed the Mangatawhiri River. In the ensuing war of 1863-64 the Crown forces attacked, by both land and water, the people of the Waikato.

In December 1863, Crown forces occupied Ngāruawāhia, the home of the king and the political centre of the Kīngitanga. During the war many communities that supported the Kīngitanga were driven out of the Waikato. In 1864-65, military settlements including Hamilton and Cambridge were established on the Waikato River and also on the Waipā River. Confiscation of Waikato lands followed in 1865. The confiscation of those lands gave rise to a settlement that was concluded in this House in 1995 under the leadership of the late Te Arikinui Dr Dame Te Atairangikaahu and Sir Robert Māhuta. That was but the first part of what I understand is really three parts that restore to the people of Waikato-Tainui that which was theirs in the beginning and was taken away from them by successive Governments.

I am proud to stand here today, following in the footsteps of the Rt Hon Douglas Graham, who, under the leadership of the Rt Hon Jim Bolger, negotiated the first Raupatu claim for Waikato-Tainui. This bill is the second in relation to the river, which was alienated from them through the same raupatu forces that occurred back in the 1860s. I acknowledge the leadership of Dr Michael Cullen in bringing this settlement to the House today. I understand that in the fullness of time the tribe’s interest in its harbours will also come to this House.

This is a great day. The fact that this settlement has now reached this House demonstrates the great leadership of the Waikato-Tainui people, and I feel very privileged to stand and talk to their aspirations, to their moemoeā. None of this has anything to do with me or us in this House; it has everything to do with what they aspire to and what they felt ought to have been since the 1860s. The bill itself, and the provisions that make up the settlement, are encapsulated in the vision that the tribe itself has put forward for its river. I read from clause 1(2) of schedule 2, which sets out the vision as being “for a future where a healthy Waikato River sustains abundant life and prosperous communities who, in turn, are all responsible for restoring and protecting the health and wellbeing of the Waikato River, and all it embraces, for generations to come.”

In other words, the whole thrust of this settlement is about restoring the river and restoring the relationship of the tribe with its river and the communities around it. In that regard, it has huge importance not just for Waikato-Tainui but indeed for all of the communities that surround the river, for the wider public, and for the New Zealand community in general.

This is the fourth bill that we have had the privilege of debating today.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Fifth.

Hon GEORGINA TE HEUHEU: This is the fifth bill—I am sorry, I am losing count, which shows how long we have been doing this.

This is the fifth bill that we have been involved in today. It is about a people and their river. No doubt some questions will be asked outside this place about who has the ownership, and, happily, no one need be concerned about that. Although there are some provisions in this settlement that foresee possible ownership interests being raised in the future, that is not the thrust of this bill today. The thrust is about the well-being of the river and the well-being of a people who, since the 1860s, have been deprived of access to it and their rights to protect it, not just for themselves but for the wider community.

I refer briefly in closing to what I understand has been an extensive consultation process on the part of Tainui, led by Lady Raihā Māhuta, a fact that in itself stirs emotions because, of course, Sir Robert Māhuta led the previous negotiations. These were also led by Tuku Morgan, a former member of this House, who really should be sitting down here. He is sitting up in the gallery, but he belongs in here, as well. My heartfelt congratulations and my heartfelt aroha go to the people of Tainui for the enormous amount of work they have done. They have done it in a patient and humble way, in the way that they are, and slowly but surely they have achieved a very momentous settlement. I am very pleased to be in this House to support the introduction of the bill. Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.

  • Debate interrupted.