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Water crisis has Treaty claim implications

The water crisis has brought the need for government agencies to engage with hapū into sharp focus, meaning that access to water and the extraction of water must navigate through an already complex and fractured relationship.

What's different about the Far North is that so much of the land and the water catchment area is Maori land, even a lake (Omāpere) is owned by hapū.

While the hapū own the water and the land, that doesn't mean that hapū won't provide access and or share the water.

The objective of the hapū is the same as the government agencies: to ensure that people have access to clean drinking water.

"The challenge was never around providing access or providing water" says Rachel Witana of the Ōmāpere Taraire E & Rangihamama X3A Ahu Whenua Trust ( “ORT”) and supported by Tiaki Taonga Trust Wai 262. Ōmāpere Taraire E & Rangihamama X3A Ahu Whenua Trust (ORT) having already given permission for access over the whenua.

Witana continues "The challenges were around the use of our natural resources and treaty obligations. The protection of Māori environmental taonga and associated kaitiaki responsibilities are recognized under the Resource Management Act 1991 ("RMA"). Environmental taonga includes land, natural features, waterways, wāhi tapu, pā sites, and flora and fauna, which are paramount to the Wai 262 flora and fauna claim.

Wai 262 flora and fauna claim concerns go beyond the basic monitoring of scientific parameters. Any tapu that the lake and land hold, for example, will need to be lifted. Protocols do not need to be compromised just because this is a crisis and is urgent.

Taonga Species are also important and in need of special consideration. Taonga species are flora and fauna significant to hapū culture and identity. Water and land are seen as living entities, through the “Mauri” aspects relating to waiora, mana, aroha and respect.

Because of the natural resources and taonga species, restoration of the wellbeing of the lake and water quality are high priorities of hapū. Therefore, the importance of water cannot be understated.

Where there is engagement between hapū and government agencies, the challenge is to ensure that the principles of the treaty are being followed, or the consequences are that further grievances may be created. The treaty requires that government agencies and hapū to operate as an equal partnership.

To some extent that is happening with the water crisis. Ōmāpere Taraire E & Rangihamama X3A Ahu Whenua Trust and government agencies already have given an indication for a more positive, constructive future. And while everyone isn't exactly standing in a circle, holding hands and singing “Whakaaria Mai” - progress is definitely being made.

This did not happen overnight, as behind the scenes both the Ōmāpere Taraire E & Rangihamama X3A Ahu Whenua Trust (ORT) and Lake Ōmāpere Trust are working tirelessly and acknowledged for their leadership. Progress would not have been positive were it not for the collaborative efforts of government agencies beyond their legislative obligations.

This media release is on behalf of the Ōmāpere Taraire E & Rangihamama X3A Ahu Whenua Trust (ORT) supported by Tiaki Taonga Trust Wai 262 flora and fauna claim.

© Scoop Media

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