Appointment of new Te Pou Tupua welcomed

Environment Minister David Parker and Ngā Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui chairperson Sheena Maru have welcomed the appointment of Keria Ponga and Turama Hawira as Te Pou Tupua.

In a joint statement Sheena Maru and David Parker said:

Today, Ngā Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui chairperson Sheena Maru Minister and Environment David Parker announced the appointments of Te Pou Tupua, the face and voice of Te Awa Tupua.

Since 2017, the Whanganui River has been recognised as a living and indivisible whole comprising of all its physical and metaphysical elements from the mountains to the sea, through the Te Awa Tupua Act.

Keria Ponga together with Turama Hawira have been appointed and will together perform the Te Pou Tupua role for the next three years.

Sheena Maru acknowledged the efforts of all who have contributed towards this effort under the COVID-19 situation.

“Today is a reminder to us all that at the heart of the Te Awa Tupua settlement framework is the legal recognition of the interconnectedness of the Whanganui River, its peoples, and its resources,” she said.

“Whilst Ruruku Whakatupua remains a ground-breaking settlement legislation, there is much more work to be done to foster understanding to protect and enhance the health and wellbeing of the Te Awa Tupua and its indivisible whole incorporating its tributaries and all its physical and metaphysical elements from the mountains to the sea.”

The appointments are made jointly by the iwi with interests in the Whanganui River and the Crown.

They symbolise both the partnership between Iwi and the Crown and the Crown’s ongoing responsibility to uphold Te Awa Tupua. These appointments support a strong future for the Whanganui River and its communities. 

David Parker acknowledged Kahurangi Dame Tariana Turia for her contribution in the role of Te Pou Tupua since 2017.

“The depth of experience and knowledge that Dame Tariana has contributed has been invaluable in this inaugural term. Together with the iwi of Te Awa Tupua, I acknowledge her leadership and dedication to upholding Tupua te Kawa,” he said.

Given Covid-19 and the need to protect our communities, the pāhake throughout Te Awa Tupua will conduct the necessary karakia as a dedication ceremony for the new term of Te Pou Tupua, and to mark the ceremonial uplifting of the role from the first term. A more formal hui will be held in person in 2022, when it is safe to do so.

Whanganui kaumatua John Niko Maihi said the iwi of Te Awa Tupua remain steadfast that our people are intrinsically connected to the health and wellbeing of the whole Awa, its mouri and its mana.

“It is with that in mind that we are assured that both shall perform the role of Te Pou Tupua given their knowledge and experience in both worlds,” he said.

“Te Pou Tupua will assist in performing this important role and to uphold Tupua te Kawa, the innate values of Te Awa Tupua, on behalf of the Whanganui River.” 

Notes for Editors

Turama Hawira

 Turama Hawira has been reappointed to serve a second term as Te Pou Tupua and brings practical experience of the Iwi of Whanganui River to the role. Mr Hawira has been a trustee and director of several hapū and iwi trusts, and organisations including chairing the Nga Rauru Iwi post settlement governance entity. He has performed numerous advisory roles with local and central government and private sector organisations, including providing tikanga and cultural advice.

Keria Ponga

For more than 40 years Keria Ponga has worked in Whanganui community development, private enterprise, business mentoring and economic development. She has held governance and leadership roles within several organisations the most current being Ātihau-Whanganui Incorporation, Ngā Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui and the Sarjeant Gallery Trust.

Ngā Tangata Tiaki

Ngā Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui is the post-settlement governance entity for Whanganui iwi for the purpose of the Whanganui River Treaty Settlement.

Iwi with interests

The iwi with interests in the Whanganui River catchment who have jointly appointed Te Pou Tupua with the Crown are Whanganui, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Rereahu, Ngāti Maru, Ngāti Apa, Ngāti Ruanui and Ngā Rauru Kītahi.

Te Pou Tupua

Te Pou Tupua is the voice and face of Te Awa Tupua – the status accorded the Whanganui River under the Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Act 2017.  A single office, it is represented by Keria Ponga and Turama Hawira who have been jointly appointed by the Crown and the iwi of Te Awa Tupua. They will both serve a three-year term. Te Pou Tupua will promote, protect and advocate for the status of Te Awa Tupua by upholding Tupua Te Kawa, the four innate values of Te Awa Tupua.