Waikato-Tainui Raupatu Claims (Waikato River) Settlement Bill - Third Reading Speech

  • Christopher Finlayson
Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations

I acknowledge and welcome the presence in the House of Kiingi Tuheitia and the distinguished kaumatua and kuia and the presence within the parliament buildings of many representatives of Waikato-Tainui.  Tena koutou katoa.

This historic settlement has three beneficiaries: 

  • Waikato the river;
  • Waikato-Tainui the people; and
  • the people of New Zealand, especially the communities of the Waikato.

In its journey from Lake Taupo to the sea, the Waikato River flows through the heartland of Waikato-Tainui and the iwi who have agreed to participate in its co-governance. 

The relationship of Waikato-Tainui with the Waikato River lies at the heart of their spiritual and physical wellbeing and their identity.  To Waikato-Tainui the Waikato River is a tupuna which has mana and in turn represents the mana and mauri of the tribe.

The words of the late King Tawhiao have been aptly adopted in the vision for the Waikato River:  "Tooku awa koiora me oona pikonga he kura tangahia o te maataamuri" - The river of life, each curve more beautiful than the last.

As New Zealand's longest river, the Waikato is an iconic natural feature in our country as well as a resource of strategic importance.

The river's importance as a resource is marked by the fact that there are more than 470 resource consents, which take from it nearly 250.6 million cubic metres of surface water per day (enough to fill around 100,000 Olympic-size swimming pools).  There are over 80 point source discharges (discharging directly to the river) on the main stem and approximately 1,600 discharges to its tributaries.

The Waikato River supplies around 13% of New Zealand's electricity generation and from within its catchment area approximately a fifth of New Zealand's exports and more than 10% of our GDP is derived.

The Waikato River flows through some of the most intensively used and modified rural areas in New Zealand.

Today the Waikato River is degraded and badly polluted.  Approximately 90% of its wetlands are gone.   Bacteria levels downstream from Hamilton City are often unsafe for swimming.  Levels of arsenic in the Waikato River almost never meet safe health standards.  In the lower Waikato River, levels of nitrogen and phosphorous fail to meet ecological standards and water clarity fails to meet the recreation standard of 1.6 metres.

This settlement establishes vital initiatives focused on restoring and protecting the health and wellbeing of the Waikato River.  These initiatives include a $210 million clean-up fund.  Without question, these initiatives befit the deep significance of the Waikato River to Waikato-Tainui and the iwi whose rohe it flows through.  Indeed, these initiatives befit the strategic importance of the Waikato River to the social, cultural, environmental and economic wellbeing of all New Zealanders.

In the bygone era of the nineteenth century, Waikato-Tainui enjoyed a golden age of peace and prosperity.  Large areas of the Waikato were cultivated for wheat, potatoes, maize and kumara.  Several flour mills were established.  Waikato-Tainui were among the first to trade in value-added exports, with ships taking flour to Australia.  Waikato Maori even established their own trading bank. But peace and prosperity were to be short-lived.

The huge pressure for land for rapidly growing numbers of settlers led to the formation of the Kiingitanga in 1858.  Its purpose was to place tribal lands under the protection and mana of the King as a guarantee against sale.

With this head-on clash of aspirations, Crown forces invaded in 1863.  1.2 million acres were seized.  With the valuable Waikato territory now held by the Crown, land was quickly allocated to settlers.  It was estimated in 1995 that the true value of the land loss for Waikato-Tainui was $12 billion.

The Crown's invasion was found to be wrong and completely unjustified.  It is now acknowledged that Waikato Maori never rebelled.  They merely defended hearth and home against an unlawful invasion.

When the Crown's military forces crossed the Mangatawhiri River in July 1863 they proceeded by land and by the Waikato River.  The loss of both was a double blow for Waikato-Tainui.  It denied Waikato-Tainui their rights and interests in the river and their mana whakahaere over it.

The historic failure of the Crown to respect, provide for and protect the special relationship of Waikato-Tainui with the Waikato River has been a source of distress for the people of Waikato-Tainui.  So has the pollution, degradation and extensive detrimental modification of its environs and wetlands.

The 1995 settlement did not deal with the tribe's claim in relation to the Waikato River.  This Bill settles the river claim.

One of the significant aspects of this settlement is the new relationship between the Crown and the Kiingitanga.  It is a mark of our maturity as a people and as a nation that we have come so far in a little less than 160 years.

At the third reading in 1995 of the legislation to settle Waikato-Tainui's lands claim the then Minister of Maori Affairs, Hon John Luxton, said: "The future that we all have to live is a common road forward from here.  We need to learn more about each other on the way...We are never able to turn back the clock, but we can find ways to make amends for grievances...It is only right that...we should find opportunities to let those grievances go, and to seek resolution to give hope for our children and our grandchildren."

The time has arrived then to usher in a new era based on optimism for the future rather than despair for the past. 

Today, as we usher in a new era of co-governance over the Waikato River we acknowledge our common road forward.  New relationships arising from this settlement will lead to greater understanding and learning.  This settlement embraces a real opportunity to let grievances go by demonstrating respect for te mana o te awa and acknowledging mana whakahaere in a tangible way.  This is very much a settlement based on optimism for the future and a real sense of hope for the generations to come.

This settlement is the culmination of the dedicated and determined efforts of many.  Some, in particular, should be acknowledged in this House.

For her inspiration and leadership in giving this negotiation momentum I acknowledge Te Arikinui, the late Dame Te Ata-I-Rangi-Kahu.

This claim was lodged by the late Sir Robert Mahuta whose foresight and drive inspired many, especially the young members of the Waikato-Tainui claims team.

Sir Robert's mission was carried on so ably and with such determination by Lady Raiha Mahuta who, sadly, did not quite live to see this day.

Tukoroirangi Morgan has always been future-focused and forthright in his engagements with the Crown.  His tireless contribution to negotiating this settlement on behalf of his people has had a major influence on the outcome.

In giving effect to the settlement of the Waikato River claims of Waikato-Tainui, this Bill recognises the significance of the Waikato River to Waikato-Tainui.

The Bill establishes the legal status of the vision and strategy for the Waikato River and sets out how it will relate to relevant statutory frameworks and instruments.  As te ture whaimana o te awa o Waikato, the vision and strategy will be the primary direction-setting document for the Waikato River.  Importantly, for resource management purposes it will form part of the Waikato regional policy statement. 

The Bill establishes a co-governance entity to be known as the Waikato River Authority.  Its purpose includes setting the primary direction for the Waikato River, through the vision and strategy, to achieve the restoration and protection of the health and wellbeing of the river for future generations.  Through its functions, the Authority will promote an integrated, holistic and co-ordinated approach to the implementation of the vision and strategy.  Its accountability requirements are robust and its membership reflects the partnership between Crown and Maori under the Treaty of Waitangi and will include people nominated by local authorities.

The Bill establishes the Waikato River Clean-Up Trust to administer a contestable fund for projects and initiatives that will contribute to the restoration and protection of the health and wellbeing of the Waikato River.  As I have noted, the Crown is contributing $210 million to this fund.  This amount will be paid over 30 years.  Provision has been made for others to be able to contribute to the fund.

Co-management arrangements in the Bill for Waikato-Tainui include the establishment of joint management agreements with local authorities.  The joint management agreements recognise that local authorities continue to have responsibilities under the Resource Management Act relating to the Waikato River while providing for Waikato-Tainui to participate jointly in a number of those functions such as reviewing planning documents to give effect to the vision and strategy, agreeing monitoring programmes and enforcement policies and criteria for processing a range of resource consent applications relating to the river.

The co-management arrangements include an integrated river management plan with, initially, conservation, fisheries and regional council components, recognition of any Waikato-Tainui environmental plan that the tribe may develop.

The Bill gives recognition for specified customary activities of Waikato-Tainui in respect of the Waikato River.  These include activities associated with waka or kohikohia, tangohia ngaa momo takawai, waioranga, wairua, tangihanga and hari tuupaapaku.  The use of traditional whitebait stands and eel weirs and the cultural harvest of flora are also recognised.

The Bill contains provisions related to Crown-owned river-related land.   33 sites of significance will vest in Waikato-Tainui.  15 of those sites will be managed by Waikato-Tainui as a local purpose reserve and 18 will be co-managed with Environment Waikato as part of the lower Waikato flood protection scheme.

A further 116 sites will vest in Waikato-Tainui who will immediately gift them to Environment Waikato.  These sites will be co-managed as part of the lower Waikato flood protection scheme.

Other Crown-owned river related land will remain in Crown ownership and Waikato-Tainui will have co-management arrangements with the relevant Crown agency.  The Bill gives a right of first refusal to Waikato-Tainui in respect of the Huntly power station and a coal mining permit.

Finally, the Bill formalises the final settlement of Waikato-Tainui's historical Treaty of Waitangi claims with respect to the Waikato River.  

In 1995 in this House when Waikato-Tainui's lands bill was being read a third time the Rt Hon Jim Bolger observed that the occasions that made the frustrations of politics worthwhile were relatively few.  He said:  "This is one such occasion, in which we move beyond the bickering and the point scoring to the substance of the work that this Parliament and parliamentarians are charged with."

Today, I feel a similar sense of satisfaction and of the worthiness of what we as politicians can achieve working constructively and in good faith with iwi.  This is a time to be proud.  This is a time to look forward with great optimism.