Waikato River deed of settlement signed with Waikato-Tainui

  • Christopher Finlayson
Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations

The Crown and Waikato-Tainui today signed a revised deed of settlement in relation to their historical Treaty claims over the Waikato River, Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Christopher Finlayson announced.

"Earlier this year we approached Waikato-Tainui about seeking more effective and economically efficient arrangements for delivering the overarching purpose of their 2008 settlement, which is to restore and protect the Waikato River environment," Mr Finlayson said. "I am very pleased we have reached this goal and want to acknowledge the efforts of the Waikato-Tainui co-negotiators Tukuroirangi Morgan and Lady Raiha Mahuta."

The Crown and Waikato-Tainui signed a deed of settlement in August 2008, providing a $210 million clean-up fund and co-governance over the river environment. The revised deed streamlines the co-governance arrangement and retains the clean-up fund.

The revised deed establishes a single co-governance entity, the Waikato River Authority. (The previous arrangement provided for six statutory boards.) The Authority will be made up of equal numbers of Crown and iwi appointed members, including other iwi with interests along the river. It will be responsible for monitoring the implementation of a direction setting document, the Vision and Strategy, Te Ture Whaimana.

"This settlement reflects the values local iwi share with all New Zealanders," Mr Finlayson said. "Its firm focus is on restoring the health of the Waikato River, which is vital for the economic, environmental, and recreational goals of the region and the country."

The vision and strategy will form part of the Waikato Regional Policy Statement and be given effect through the plans administered by regional and territorial authorities along the river. The settlement also provides for joint management agreements between Waikato-Tainui and the local authorities; participation in river-related resource consent decision-making; recognition of a Waikato-Tainui environmental plan; provision for regulations relating to fisheries and other matters managed under conservation legislation and an integrated river management plan.

"The process is about moving forward together," said Mr Morgan. "The key for Waikato-Tainui is to ensure the integrity of the settlement signed in 2008 is protected and enhanced."

 "We have spent a great length of time to ensure the co-management arrangements have been greatly enhanced and the vision and strategy, Te Ture Whaimana was at the highest level of recognition," Lady Mahuta said. "I'm confident that this gives us a better starting point.  Waikato-Tainui trusts that other river iwi are able to benefit from this enhanced model."

Mr Finlayson acknowledged the input of local authorities and key stakeholders in the Waikato who provided valuable perspectives throughout the negotiation process.

Summary of the Waikato River Settlement


The Waikato River Settlement is the final settlement of all Waikato-Tainui's historical claims relating to the Waikato River resulting from acts or omissions by the Crown prior to 21 September 1992 and includes:

  • An agreed historical account and Crown acknowledgements;
  • A commitment by the Crown and Waikato-Tainui to enter a new era of co-management over the Waikato River;
  • The Crown's recognition of the significance of the Waikato River to Waikato-Tainui; and
  • Arrangements for the Waikato River comprising:
  • - a primary, direction-setting document for the Waikato River called ‘The Vision and Strategy' or ‘Te Ture Whaimana';
  • - the establishment of a new co-governance entity, the Waikato River Authority;
  • - the establishment of a clean-up trust for the Waikato River;
  • - co-management arrangements for Waikato-Tainui; and
  • - recognition and provision for river-related customary activities undertaken by members of Waikato-Tainui.
  • Provision for a cultural harvest plan;
  • The Kiingitanga Accord and other accords as agreed in the 2008 settlement; and
  • Other provisions including the gifting to Waikato-Tainui of sites of significance, provision for co-management of river-related land, a commitment to engage over dispositions and the rights of first refusal in relation to the Huntly power station and a coal mining licence as agreed in the 2008 settlement.

The benefits of the settlement will be available to all members of Waikato-Tainui wherever they live.

Crown acknowledgements

The Crown acknowledges that its past dealings with Waikato-Tainui in relation to the Waikato River breached the Crown's obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi. These include:

  • The Crown's raupatu (invasion and war by land and by the Waikato River, and subsequent confiscation of Waikato lands) in the 1860s which denied Waikato-Tainui their rights and interests in the Waikato River;
  • The failure of the Crown to respect, provide for and protect the special relationship Waikato-Tainui have with the River; and
  • The degradation of the River that has occurred while the Crown has had authority over the River causing distress to Waikato-Tainui.


The Waikato River claim arose from the Crown's raupatu (confiscation) in the 1860s which denied the rights and interests of Waikato-Tainui in the Waikato River. The river claim was excluded from the 1995 land settlement with Waikato-Tainui and was set aside for future negotiation.

Terms of Negotiation for the Waikato River claim were signed by the Crown and Waikato-Tainui in December 2005, and negotiations have been ongoing. An Agreement in Principle was signed on 16 December 2007.

Representatives of the Crown and Waikato-Tainui signed a Deed of Settlement to settle the historical claims of Waikato-Tainui over the Waikato River on 22 August 2008. 

In 2009 the Crown decided to review aspects of the co-management arrangements for the Waikato River to assess whether it was possible to do better and, with the agreement of Waikato-Tainui, appointed an advisory panel.

Following an advisory panel's recommendations, Waikato-Tainui and the Crown agreed to the enhanced co-management arrangements.

The key aspects of the new arrangements are as follows:

  • a vision and strategy document which will have special and unique legislative status as the primary direction-setting document for the river;
  • a single co-governance entity; and
  • joint management agreements

The revised Deed supersedes the 2008 deed and contains the terms of the settlement between the Crown and Waikato-Tainui in relation to the Waikato River.

All other aspects of the existing 2008 Deed of Settlement for the Waikato River remain unaffected.

Primary River Document: Vision and Strategy

The Vision and strategy is the primary document for the Waikato River. It focuses on restoring and protecting the health and wellbeing of the river for future generations.

It will be:

  • incorporated directly into the Waikato regional policy statement
  • reviewed by the new Authority to add targets and methods as necessary
  • given effect under the Resource Management Act 1991 and conservation legislation
  • given the status of a statement of general policy under conservation legislation

Waikato River Authority

The new arrangements provide for a single entity to be called the Waikato River Authority established through the settlement legislation with 50:50 Crown-Māori membership with one Crown member nominated by Environment Waikato and one nominated by relevant territorial authorities.

Its purpose will be to:

  • provide direction through the vision and strategy to achieve the restoration and protection of the health and wellbeing of the Waikato River for future generations;
  • promote an integrated, holistic and co-ordinated approach to the implementation of the vision and strategy and the management of the Waikato River; and
  • fund rehabilitation initiatives for the Waikato River in its role as trustee for the Waikato River Clean-Up Trust.

Co-management agreements
Co-management agreements comprise:

  • 1.
  • joint management agreements
  • participation in specific and defined river-related resource consent decision-making
  • recognition of a Waikato-Tainui environmental plan
  • provision for regulations relating to fisheries and other matters managed under conservation legislation; and
  • an integrated river management plan

Customary Activities

The arrangements under the deed will provide direct statutory mechanisms to recognise and exempt customary activities that are fundamental to the relationship Waikato-Tainui has with the river.

Cultural Harvest

The settlement legislation will permit Waikato-Tainui to authorise iwi members to harvest flora material for cultural purposes in accordance with an agreed flora cultural harvest plan. 

Kiingitanga Accord

The Kiingitanga accord between Waikato-Tainui and the Crown sets out the joint commitments of the parties to an enhanced relationship, to support integrated co management and to protect the integrity of the settlement.

The Accord includes commitments to:

  • develop and agree portfolio-specific accords with the Minister of Conservation, Fisheries, Land Information, Environment, Arts, Culture and Heritage, Local Government, Agriculture, Biosecurity, Energy and with the Commissioner of Crown Lands; and
  • explore accords between Waikato-Tainui and other Ministers and agencies after the deed is signed, and to support Waikato-Tainui to establish memoranda of understanding with councils and other relevant agencies.

Other provisions

Gifting of sites of significance:

The arrangement provides for the gifting of 15 specified sites of cultural significance.

Gifting of lands held by the Ministry for the Environment

Defined parcels of land administered by Environment Waikato for soil conservation and river control purposes will be gifted to Waikato-Tainui. Waikato-Tainui will transfer back key sites to Environment Waikato who will continue to manage them for soil conservation and river control purposes.

Other Crown-owned river-related lands

The arrangements will include a list of other Crown-owned river-related lands that will be subject to co-management arrangements with Waikato-Tainui. 

Right of first refusal over the leasehold estate in the Huntly power station and right of first refusal over mining licence

The right of first refusal in the 2008 settlement will remain in respect of both.

Questions and Answers

What is the total cost to the Crown?

The financial package provides for:

  • Sir Robert Mahuta Endowment the Crown will make an up front contribution of $20 million to the Waikato Endowed Colleges Trust;
  • River initiatives funds The Crown will provide $50 million as a fund for initiatives to restore and protect the relationship of Waikato-Tainui with the Waikato River (including its economic, social, cultural and spiritual relationships) and the protection and enhancement of significant sites, fisheries, flora and fauna (in the lower reaches of the Waikato River). This fund and the endowment were provided for in the 2008 settlement; and
  • Co-governance funding the Crown will provide $1 million per year for 30 years to fund the Waikato-Tainui's participation in the co-governance processes in this settlement.

To help enable the restoration and protection of the Waikato River, the Crown has committed $7 million per year for 30 years to a contestable clean-up fund to be administered by the Authority.

Is there any private land involved?

No. No private properties are included in the settlement.

Are the public's rights affected?

No. The settlement specifically provides for public access to the Waikato River while protecting and enhancing the health and wellbeing of the Waikato River. Waikato-Tainui will not own the River.

Are any place names changed?


How does this relate to the Waikato-Tainui Raupatu (or ‘Land') claim settled in 1995?

The Waikato River claim arose from the Crown's raupatu (confiscation) in the 1860s which denied the rights and interests of Waikato-Tainui in the Waikato River. The river claim was excluded from the 1995 land settlement with Waikato-Tainui and was set aside for future negotiation. This negotiation is now complete.

Why is there a separate Deed of Settlement for the Waikato River?

The Crown and Waikato- Tainui previously agreed to separate the land and river negotiations. The Waikato River Settlement is not an enhanced aspect of the 1995 Settlement. It is a separate part of Waikato-Tainui's settlement which has now been completed. 

How does this relate to the Waikato-Tainui River Deed signed on 22 August 2008?

This Deed supersedes the 2008 Deed. The Government approached Waikato-Tainui in 2009 with a proposal to review the arrangements regarding the model negotiated in 2008. While much of the Deed remains the same, the key differences in the revised deed include a single co-governance entity (the Waikato River Authority); removing the statutory boards, and introducing joint management agreements between iwi and councils.

Does the settlement create any special rights for Waikato-Tainui?

The settlement enables Waikato-Tainui to have a high-level governance role for the Waikato River. In practice, this means decisions about how the river will be managed will be in conjunction with local authorities. Waikato-Tainui will not have veto rights over the river's management.  

How does this settlement affect other river iwi?

Other iwi on the Waikato River will be represented on the Waikato River Authority and will participate in the co-governance arrangements. These iwi are Raukawa, Te Pumautanga o Te Arawa, Ngāti Maniapoto and Ngāti Tuwharetoa.

Will the settlement affect any recreation on the river such as boating or rowing, swimming or fishing?

No. Recreational activities on the river will continue under current laws. Over time as the health of the river is restored, all of these activities should be enhanced by the agreement.

Will the settlement affect trout fishing or its management?

No. Sport fish and sport fishing are not affected.

Will the agreement affect dairy-farmers or the hydroelectric dams on the river?

The agreement is designed to involve a wide range of community representatives in the clean up of the river.  The Waikato communities, including farmers and other stakeholders, agree that the health of the river is important.

Does Waikato-Tainui have the right to come back and make further claims about the behaviour of the Crown in the 19th and 20th centuries?

No. Both parties agree that the Deed of Settlement is fair in the circumstances and will be a final settlement for all the historical (pre-1992) Waikato River claims of Waikato-Tainui. The settlement legislation, once passed, will prevent Waikato-Tainui from re-litigating the claim before the Tribunal or the courts.

The settlement package will still allow Waikato-Tainui or members of Waikato-Tainui to pursue claims against the Crown for acts or omissions after 21 September 1992, including claims based on the continued existence of aboriginal title or customary rights. The Crown also retains the right to dispute such claims or the existence of such title rights.

Who benefits from the settlement?

All members of Waikato-Tainui, wherever they live.