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Wairarapa Water Storage Project Plagued By Unrealistic Time Frames And Misinformation

Wairarapa iwi Rangitāne o Wairarapa is concerned at the rushed time frames and incorrect information being used to push a large scale water storage project in Wairarapa. Since January of this year the iwi have raised concerns around the environmental, cultural and economic impact of the Wakamoekau Community Water Storage Scheme, which is being proposed by Wairarapa Water Limited.

“This is a significant project that will have lasting impacts for our future generations and creates huge environmental change. We need to do due diligence to understand the full picture before we, as an iwi, can decide whether to partner with this project,” says Tiraumaera Te Tau, Chair of Rangitāne o Wairarapa.

Rangitāne o Wairarapa is also concerned at the continued misinformation provided by Wairarapa Water to its stakeholders during field trips and forums. “Wairarapa Water has stated there will be zero impacts to the rest of our rivers and lakes and told us that if we don’t capture water it will be lost to the sea. However, this information is factually incorrect, not just with mātauranga Māori but also from science,” said Amber Craig, Deputy Chair of Rangitāne o Wairarapa.

The iwi have proposed a way forward which includes undertaking a Cultural Impact Assessment, but this has been dismissed by Wairarapa Water, a move which Craig says is part of Wairarapa Water’s dismissive approach to hapū iwi concerns and the importance of mātauranga Māori.

“Instead of working with us to do the research needed to ensure this is the best approach for our communities, our environment and our economy, Wairarapa Water have said we need to simply approve of a prescribed methodology for a cultural impact assessment by December 2020, which it would be irresponsible of us to do,” says Craig.

With work due to start on the water storage project in 2022, Rangitāne o Wairarapa are clear that they are the only entity that have the mandate to speak on the cultural wellbeing of Rangitāne o Wairarapa. “According to the United Nations, indigenous peoples have the right to give free, prior and informed consent that may affect us or our territories. Rangitāne o Wairarapa will contest any project where we do not understand the full impacts through a robust and thorough process which considers our whenua (land), wai (waters) and tangata (people).” explains Craig.

“Our kaumātua (elders) tell us that Rangitāne people historically had pā sites alongside the Wakamoekau river. Our rivers are wāhi tapu (sacred places) for us. We have been here for many generations and we will continue to be here for many generations to come. Our whānau are the descendants of the people who lived here and we have a responsibility to them and our future generations to ensure these places flourish.” says Te Tau.

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