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Student researching co-governance between iwi and crown

UC postgraduate student researching co-governance arrangements between iwi and Crown

August 22, 2013

A University of Canterbury (UC) postgraduate student is researching co-governance arrangements between iwi and the Crown in New Zealand with a focus on Ngai Tahu and Ngai Tuhoe.

Rachael Harris (Ngati Tama) says New Zealand’s laws are required to protect stunning natural features for future generations. The overriding piece of legislation that deals with environmental protection in New Zealand is the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA).

``The RMA provides that everyone exercising functions and powers under it shall take into account the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. The Crown utilises co-governance agreements for specific natural resources to balance iwi interests with others and to meet Treaty obligations.

``Co-governance arrangements between Iwi and Crown are in place all over New Zealand, allowing for the effective co-management of natural resources and balancing the interests of Māori and central government. There are currently successful co-governance plans in place in areas such as the Waikato River and Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere.

``In the past two years, two very different co-governance arrangements have come into existence. Following the earthquakes, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011 came into existence, giving statutory recognition to Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu as a partner in the recovery process.

``This gives Ngai Tahu equal standing to the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority and local authorities in the rebuild, and required the Minister for Earthquake Recovery to develop the Recovery Strategy in mandatory consultation with the iwi.

``This partnership has been considered something of a trail-blazing move and is a very different type of co-governance arrangement.

``Secondly, a unique co-governance arrangement has come into being with the signing of a treaty settlement in 2013 between the Crown and central North Island Iwi, Ngai Tuhoe. This settlement creates a co-management plan between the iwi and the Department of Conservation for Te Urewera National Park. 

``The settlement grants mana motuhake, or self-determination, and will see a new legal identity for the park – neither the Crown nor Tuhoe owns it. While the Crown will oversee management of the park initially, over time, the Crown will pull back, eventually allowing Tuhoe full control of the area.

``Some see this as a different kind of constitutional arrangement that has the potential to allow Tuhoe to create its own ‘nation’ over the next few generations.’’

Harris’s research aims to understand how these co-governance arrangements fit into the fabric of New Zealand society, and how successful each iwi has been in promoting the interests of their people through their respective co-management arrangements.

Along with fellow UC law student Joy Twemlow, Harris has been selected for a New Zealand Law Foundation Scholarship to attend the New Zealand Public Law Centre's conference in Wellington at the end of the month.  Harris will deliver a paper to the UC Maori Postgraduate Symposium on campus today.


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