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Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme will help wellbeing

30 January 2013
Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme will help wellbeing and mauri

A respected Māori leader believes the Ruataniwha Water Storage (RWS) Scheme could have huge potential for Māori in Hawke’s Bay.

Professor Roger Maaka is Dean of the Māori Faculty at EIT. He lives in Takapau and speaks for the four marae in the catchment area of the proposed dam. He has been a member of the RWS Leadership Group for the past two and a half years and continues to work closely with those driving the scheme.

He’s taking a long term view of the scheme; looking to the future at social and economic opportunities for Māori and others in the community; with an equal view to improving the wellbeing or mauri of the Tukituki River.

“Māori have a lot to gain from this scheme, provided the environment and mauri of the river are not damaged, and at this stage the science I’ve seen indicates that both will be enhanced,” says Prof. Maaka.

However he believes the Hawke’s Bay community are yet to fully understand just how much potential there is if the Scheme goes ahead.
He says it took him some time to get his head around the enormity of the scheme and what it can offer Hawke’s Bay and believes the general public are yet to get to that point.

“This scheme is huge. It will touch everybody in Hawke’s Bay. It is more than storing a bit of water and once we get our heads around that we can start to truly understand what this project can offer our communities,” says Prof. Maaka.

He speaks of three underlying principles for successful Māori engagement with the scheme: Recognition, Protection and Participation.

Prof. Maaka says it is vital that local Māori and hapū play a key role in the scheme, as tangata whenua in the area of the water storage location.

“This is the largest investment ever in this region and therefore local Māori communities must benefit from the scheme at all levels. We are more than just cultural advisors, we are tangata whenua and therefore need to be integral to the social and economic planning and operations of this project.”

Prof. Maaka says that for Māori protecting the mauri of the Mākaroro River as well as the Waipawa and along the length of the Tukituki rivers are paramount.

“So far the science has shown while there will be effects from the scheme they can be countered and I am anticipating a considerable improvement overall in the health of the rivers.”

Roger Maaka says the other protection Māori want is an assurance that the benefits from the scheme will be felt locally.

“What’s good for Māori locally is good for the whole community. We don’t want any monopolies to come in and establish just one industry or one type of agriculture. We want a mix of uses. We don’t want one large organisation to come in and take everything over, taking the benefits away from our local communities.”

He says Māori want that protection embedded in the legislation that underpins the whole project.

Roger Maaka says often Māori are engaged in the latter stages of a project, but with the RWS Scheme they have been involved from early on and want to continue to contribute in all stages of planning and implementation.

“In this project we have been involved from the start and we want this to continue. Ultimately we want to be part of developing the management and governance systems put in place around the scheme.”

Roger Maaka hopes there will be Iwi groups investing in the scheme and some have already shown interest.

“Those Iwi groups with the capital will invest if they feel it is a wise investment and I hope that does happen, but we have no control over that.”

He says that a big part of participation is employment opportunities and he is lobbying for a sizable proportion of the workforce to be Māori – both during construction as well as the post-construction phases.

“We have a very sad level of unemployment, particularly in our younger generation. There is a seasonal nature to the work for Māori in Central Hawke’s Bay and also many of our young people leave the region to seek work elsewhere around the country or overseas.”

He is working with local authorities and EIT to look at the possibility of developing programmes to prepare the local population for the jobs that will be available when construction starts.

“In addition to those construction jobs we want to see our people in trades and professional areas coming out of this scheme. There will be miles of piping to be laid to distribute the water to irrigation sites; we need to train people to provide and sustain these types of new services to the farming community.”

Prof. Maaka says he would like to think Māori will also be among the professionals, such as engineers and accountants, employed on this scheme.

“This could occur through assistance or scholarships to young talented Māori who may still be at high school to encourage them to get qualified and come back and find work on the scheme or the associated industries.”

“I would also like there to be some Māori farmers who take up the opportunities from the additional land once irrigation is made available. I am not sure how that can happen, but I will be asking the Government and other agencies to assist us to work toward this.”

Roger Maaka says while there is still a lot of work to do he sees that the scheme in its entirety has huge potential for Māori in Hawke’s Bay, and the region as a whole.

© Scoop Media

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