Waikato River Settlement Act passed

  • Christopher Finlayson
Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations

Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Christopher Finlayson welcomed the Waikato-Tainui Raupatu Claims (Waikato River) Settlement Act, which was passed by Parliament today.

 "This Act provides the framework for a new era in the relationship between the Crown and Waikato-Tainui and for restoring and protecting the health and wellbeing of the Waikato River for future generations," Mr Finlayson said. 

"The search for justice by Waikato-Tainui has been a long one. Settlement of the Waikato River claim with its positive and clear focus on the future of this major natural resource is a major shift that is cause for considerable optimism not only for the Crown and Waikato-Tainui but for the region's community as a whole."

The Act provides for a $210 million clean-up fund for the river over the next 30 years.

It also sets out a framework for co-governance of the river, the longest in New Zealand. It differs in important respects from the original Bill that was introduced in 2008 by the previous government. 

Following a review initiated by this government, the parties agreed to a more streamlined structure with a single co-governance entity, the Waikato River Authority, and much clearer arrangements for the vision and strategy as the primary direction setting document for the Waikato River.

"The changes will greatly improve the implementation of the new framework and remove the bureaucratic excesses that were a risk to achieving positive change and improvement for the river," Mr Finlayson said.

"Co-governance arrangements such as those negotiated as part of this settlement need to be practical and workable and reflect the aspirations of all sectors of the community including their social, cultural and economic objectives", the Minister said.

"I particularly acknowledge the significant contributions made by the late Lady Raiha Mahuta and by Tukoroirangi Morgan, the co-negotiators for Waikato-Tainui," said Mr Finlayson.

"We can now look forward to a future where a healthy Waikato River sustains abundant life and prosperous communities who, in turn, are all responsible for restoring and protecting the health and wellbeing of the Waikato River, and all it embraces, for generations to come."

What happens next?

The Act will come into force later this year following the completion of an independent scoping study currently in progress to identify priorities for the clean-up of the Waikato River.

How will co-governance work?

The Act will establish the Waikato River Authority. The Authority will be made up of equal numbers of Crown and iwi appointed members  and be responsible for monitoring and guiding the implementation of the direction setting document, the Vision and Strategy, Te Ture Whaimana. 

The vision and strategy will form part of the Waikato Regional Policy Statement and be given effect through the regional and district plans administered by the regional and territorial authorities.

Other important features of the new Act include 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 (including cultural use of wildlife materials and marine mammal materials) and an integrated river management plan.

Does the settlement affect other iwi?

Other iwi along the Waikato River share similar goals for the Waikato River and its major tributary, the Waipa River, and excellent progress is being made with their own arrangements with the Crown.