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Water Quality And Good Health - Turia Speech

9 July 2001 Hon Tariana Turia Speech Notes

Opening Speech To The Water Quality And Good Health In Buildings And Water Systems Conference, Massey University, Wellington

Tena tatau e hui nei i tenei ata.

Tena koutou i tono ko au te mangai hei para i te ara mo nga korero o to koutou hui. Tena hoki koutou mo nga ahuatanga katoa o te wa.

Me mihi hoki ki nga uri o Te Atiawa, na koutou, na ratau te whare hui e hui nei tatau i tenei ra. Tena koutou.

In reflecting on the invitation to open the Conference on “Water Quality & Good Health in Buildings & Water Systems”, I pondered whether I was putting myself in a situation where the discussion could be of such a depth that if I was not struck down by some water borne organism, I would certainly flounder and eventually drown.

While looking at the conference programme I also considered I might have to be more careful with air conditioning (it sets off my asthma) washing in hot water, using the parliamentary swimming pool and indeed whether or not I should ever drink water again.

It seemed that water was dangerous. Besides its ability to drown it could be invaded by organisms like legionella, cryptosporidiosis, giardia and numerous other organisms, which would endanger my health.

I note you have water available in this Conference venue so you obviously believe the water is safe for you or are you reserving it for politicians like myself and you will be whipping down to the corner dairy to get your coca cola fix.

On a more serious note, in considering what I would say today, it came to me that two thirds of the earth’s surface is water and that over ninety per cent of the human body is also liquid.

Water is indeed an extremely important part of our existence.

Procreation and the fertilisation of the human egg involve water.

The foetus is suspended in water. The membrane breaks releasing the amniotic fluid prior to the birth of a child.

A newborn child is dependent on the wai u, breast milk.

The question na wai koe? – figuratively asking “who are your parents”? is literally asking “whose birth waters are you from”?

Na meaning “from”, wai meaning, “water” and koe, meaning “you”. The waters of birth establish the identity for members of whanau, hapu and iwi.

It is important therefore our water is kept in a healthy condition, our identity is at stake.

I do want to thank you for the invitation to open your conference and I want to start by saying to you:

"E rere kau mai te awa nui
Mai te kahui maunga ki Tangaroa,
Ko au te awa
Ko te awa ko au".

"The majestic river flows
From the chiefly mountain to the sea
I am the river
The river is me"

The reference is to the Whanganui River of whom I am a descendant. Every tribe in Aotearoa would have a tribal saying which references an expanse of water whether a river or a lake.

Your invitation then is very important to me as it offers an opportunity to share with you a perception hapu and iwi Maori have of water.

My primary reference for this korero is the 1999 Waitangi Tribunal Whanganui River Report.

For the people of Whanganui the river is a healer, a tohunga, a kapata kai, (food store) a highway and a protector.

It is the rope, which binds all the people from the mountain Tongariro to the sea.

It is the Taurawhiri a Hinengakau, the plaited rope of the ancestress Hinengakau.

The river is, before any other consideration part of our genealogical constructs.

It is this genealogy, which binds the people with the river, the animals, plants, mountains and lakes.

This is the reason, we in Whanganui continue to be concerned with any despoiling of the river, including both the transfer of Whanganui River water to Lake Taupo for hydro electricity through the Tongariro power scheme at the upper levels, and the continued pollution of Whanganui River water at the lower levels.

The taking of water from one source and tribal area and transfer to another tribal area violates the tribal relationships and therefore political harmony between tribes.

Just last week Te Ati Awa of the Kapiti Coast expressed their concern about receiving water from Otaki, unless, Ngati Raukawa gifted the water.

They were also concerned with the inappropriateness of transferring water from one area to another as each water source had a different life source and mixing them amounted to a desecration.

We believe all things have a mauri, a life force and as such were to be respected.

If the mauri of the river were not respected or if people were presumptuous enough to believe they could assume dominance over it, the river would lose its life essence and those who depend on it would ultimately suffer the consequences.

It is therefore incumbent upon us to respect it as though it was one’s kin.

For us then there are a number of classifications of water, these include:

Waiora, the purest form of water direct from Ranginui, the sky father and contains the source of life and well being.

Wairoa or rainwater, made pure for human consumption through contact with Papatuanuku the earth mother.

Waimaori, freely running fresh water that is clear or lucid

Waikino, turbulent water in the temporal sense, as in rapids or in spiritual sense water with a negative mauri in that it has been debased or polluted.

Waimate, in the temporal sense a sluggish backwater, in spiritual sense water that has lost its mauri and become dead.

Waitai, seawater or water that has returned to Tangaroa in the natural process of generation, degradation and rejuvenation.

Wai u, which I referred to earlier, is breast milk.

Water was considered to have its own sanctity to be kept in its natural state as far as that was possible.

Water as wai ora was seen to sustain, protect and enhance life. It was avoided if unclean.

As in many aspects of whanau, hapu and iwi life an ethic of least interference exists.

The ethic found amongst many indigenous peoples placed limitations on human intervention to exploit and outlined the rules if you, like for appropriate use.

There was a distinct repugnance and non-acceptance to the pollution of water from human and food wastes. (Waste water was returned to the land, not drained off in to waterways.)

It may be of interest for you to know that with the advent of the flush toilet, many Maori had extreme difficulty in accepting the toilet should be inside the house where one could defecate in the dwelling where one both ate and slept.

Even today in some rural Maori communities flushed toilets are placed in a separate building away from the main house, out the back, down the path, like the long drop.

Many whanau also separate and wash their tea towels in containers separate to the washing machine where underwear, clothing and bed linen are washed, so strong is the aversion to contamination from food and human waste.

It was not possible to purify water without effort and often, human effort alone was considered not to be sufficient, a spiritual dimension beyond the secular was necessary.

Water and its health and use also assume political and economic dimensions where there are competing interests.

Successful farming and fertilising of the land could mean the pollution of waterways. Consider how “progress and development” have strained the water supplies like those on the Kapiti Coast and caused distress to lakes like Lake Omapere in Northland.

The need to populate New Zealand for the economic benefits immigration would bring to the country also has an economic cost.

Is that cost, to be the cost of quality and healthy water systems? Will that cost be at the risk of further pollution of our waterways?

Perhaps as we plan urban or commercial development we may need to consider why it is we build in places where we than have to bring water from another area to sustain that urban development.

Or why we pollute waterways in the name of commercial development and progress.

We in Whanganui consider the pollution of the river to affect its soul, and its spirit and through its affinity to our people, affect us mentally, physically and spiritually.

There are many hapu and iwi who claim that the taking of water from its place of origin has greatly affected their ability to remain healthy and vibrant communities.

In conclusion, I want to say I am particularly interested in your Conference. Not only because it has offered an opportunity to share with you a view of water from a Whanganui perspective, but to also say to you that we must all play our part in ensuring that the provision of healthy potable water must be made available to people who occupy buildings, whether it be the humble home, the elite hotel, executive apartment or the multi-storied office block.

As the Associate Minister of Health, Housing and Maori Affairs I am particularly interested in the health of the water in isolated rural communities particularly isolated, Maori communities. I am concerned that the quality of water in some of those communities is not of a standard, we should tolerate.

I do not believe the hapu and iwi relationship with water is appreciated and I am concerned that too often hapu and iwi are not involved in the discussion regarding the reticulation of water and the development of residential areas and industry.

Too often planners cannot see the connection between water and the life, soul and spirituality of communities. Planners cannot see that perhaps the development should be taken to the water source and not the water to the development.

If the Waikanae River cannot sustain the development of the Kapiti Coast, why take the water from Otaki? Why could the residential development not occur in Otaki? This may be a simplistic view, but why not consider it?

With those few thoughts I wish you a very successful Conference.

Na reira, huri noa i tenei whare, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatau katoa.

Ends

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