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Ngāi Tahu’s Water Offer Receives Tentative Response

An offer of support from Ngāi Tahu has been left on the table by Invercargill City Council for a second time in as many weeks.

Dated March 28, the Ngāi Tahu letter pertains to the Government’s new Local Waters Done Well approach and suggests collaboration with South Island councils.

The offer took until April 30 to reach a council meeting but was delayed until Tuesday, where it was left to lie on the table once again.

Mayor Nobby Clark said the rationale was “two or three-fold”.

“I’ve already responded on behalf of council to say that this council has an open mind on working with Ngāi Tahu,” Clark said.

“We would like some questions answered from their end, and from other councils as well about where the future of . . . (the reforms) will land.

“At this stage, we’ve had staff involved with looking at an Otago/Southland model, and now looking at a Southland model exclusively.”

Clark said he wanted the council to wait until at least the middle of the year so it could find out more information from the government about its future direction.

It had been decided that the council’s chief executive would attend an initial meeting between other councils and Ngāi Tahu to get feedback about what the iwi role would look like, he said.

In response to questions from Local Democracy Reporting last week, Ngāi Tahu kaiwhakahaere Justin Tipa explained the offer was made to South Island councils to address the challenge of ensuring safe, affordable and sustainable water services.

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“Ngāi Tahu aspirations for water services are simply for equitable, safe, sustainable water services for all the communities in Te Waipounamu,” Tipa said.

The offer was to help with logistics and facilitate discussion, not support any particular model.

On Tuesday, Mayor Clark said the other Southland mayors had not responded to the letter and had no intention of tabling it at their council.

But Southland Mayor Rob Scott said his council had verbally indicated to Ngāi Tahu it was keen to be involved in discussions.

“We haven’t decided not to progress it. Still the early stages of how the reforms work, so we’re keeping our options open,” he said.

Gore Mayor Ben Bell said the letter from Ngāi Tahu hadn’t been presented to the council yet, but believed that may have been on accident.

A response letter was sent on behalf of Zone 6 mayors (ranging from Central Otago to Southland) indicating a possible path forward of meeting with Ngāi Tahu to further understand the proposal, he said.

According to a report prepared for Invercargill City Council two weeks ago, there were a number of benefits to working with the iwi.

Those included gaining cultural perspective and knowledge, and raising the profile of key projects including two wastewater plants and a water treatment plant.

The previous government's Affordable Water Reforms — earlier called Three Waters — would have created new water entities responsible for water assets.

Those reforms were repealed in February to make way for Local Water Done Well.

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