Limited resources barrier to effective freshwater management

GISBORNE District Council and tangata whenua lack the capacity and capability to properly manage fresh water, a review by the Ministry for the Environment has found.

The National Policy Statement (NPS) for Freshwater Management, enacted in 2011, guides regional councils in setting objectives and limits for freshwater quality, which must be “improved or maintained”, and quantity.

It requires iwi and hapu be involved in freshwater management and their values be reflected in freshwater management decisions.

MFE conducted an implementation review in Gisborne/Tairawhiti, interviewing GDC staff, tangata whenua and stakeholders about how the NPS had been done.

The report said GDC had made “significant progress”, but capacity and capability for GDC and tangata whenua were listed as the primary barriers to better freshwater management.

“Despite the best efforts of staff, resource limitations restrict what GDC is able to accomplish in terms of the monitoring, research and planning processes,” the report said.

“Similar limitations among iwi, hapu and stakeholders make it difficult for some groups to participate effectively in collaboration or to enact the practical changes that plans will require.”

Because of its limited resources, GDC was often unable to take part in national discussions, meaning its views and contexts were not well represented nationally.

“GDC has expressed strong frustration concerning the influence of national discussions and policy on its regional planning,” the report said.

Consequently the NPS had forced the council to “focus on nitrogen and phosphorous limits, which are relatively minor issues in the region compared with sediment and E.coli”.

“National contexts may have indirectly created greater problems for the region.”

Iwi and hapu interviewed for the review felt the role of national government in the process was “inadequate”.

They should have had a partnership role in developing the NPS and their lack of involvement indicated the Crown was “not committed to iwi partnership”.

Crown and GDC responsibility

The Crown and GDC should take responsibility for resourcing and supporting iwi and hapu to be fully engaged, they said.

The report expressed concern about GDC’s lack of involvement of iwi and hapu, despite “significant efforts”.

“We have some concern as to whether iwi and hapu, particularly small rural hapu, have been sufficiently involved in the governance and management of fresh water.”

Maori review participants said they felt they were not fully engaged as partners, and that GDC and the Crown treated iwi and hapu unequally, showing favour to Ngati Porou at the expense of smaller, less politically connected iwi and hapu with fewer resources.

There was also frustration in dealing with mostly “Pakeha or ‘town Maori’ council staff”.

“Some tangata whenua representatives were not satisfied council staff understand or appreciate te ao Maori concepts well enough to articulate them fully in plans or policies.”

The term mauri, often referred to as life-supporting capacity, was cited as especially problematic.

The difficulties were exacerbated by an “inherent difference in philosophies, where water is treated as a commodity by GDC and industry, but viewed by Maori as taonga with its own whakapapa (geneaology)”.

There was also a belief Maori had a proprietary right to water, which had been breached in violation of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Objectives lacking

GDC had not set high enough objectives given the “historical destruction of wetlands and contamination of water bodies”.

“Iwi and hapu wanted higher standards for swimmability, mahinga kai (food gathering) and the mauri of rivers because these are essential for cultural practice and community, as well as the environment or public health.”

The report noted the joint management agreement with Ngati Porou for the Waiapu catchment, development of the Mauri Compass, and the planned creation of a joint committee for governance with Turanga iwi Ngai Tamanuhiri, Rongowhakaata and Te Aitanga a Mahaki would help start to resolve this issue.

But it warned the problem would likely persist until iwi and hapu capacity and capability were improved.

The review found during community engagement sessions, including the freshwater advisory group, there was concern industry voices were dominating.

Some review participants reported they did not feel it was always a safe environment to speak freely and group members had considerable differences in capability.

Industry representatives were often paid, experienced and able to commit more time, the report said.

“By contrast, those from iwi and hapu or environmental groups were typically volunteers, with other demands on their time and little or no experience with collaboration.”

In the review, GDC expressed concern the Gisborne Freshwater Plan, approved by the council in August, would become a “costly and time-consuming legal battleground” for national sector groups trying to establish national precedents.

Sector groups consulted in the review indicated they would put full resources into the Gisborne legal challenges.
GDC was concerned about the additional costs of these challenges.

Overall, the report said GDC had made “significant progress” towards implementing the NPS.

It said the approach of addressing freshwater first at the regional scale, then adding catchment-specific chapters over time, was a “wise and efficient approach for its regional circumstances”.

Addressing the Waipaoa catchment first would have the “greatest and most immediate impact”. The catchment accounts for 90 percent of regional water demand and faces the greatest pressures on water quality and quantity.

GISBORNE District Council and tangata whenua lack the capacity and capability to properly manage fresh water, a review by the Ministry for the Environment has found.

The National Policy Statement (NPS) for Freshwater Management, enacted in 2011, guides regional councils in setting objectives and limits for freshwater quality, which must be “improved or maintained”, and quantity.

It requires iwi and hapu be involved in freshwater management and their values be reflected in freshwater management decisions.

MFE conducted an implementation review in Gisborne/Tairawhiti, interviewing GDC staff, tangata whenua and stakeholders about how the NPS had been done.

The report said GDC had made “significant progress”, but capacity and capability for GDC and tangata whenua were listed as the primary barriers to better freshwater management.

“Despite the best efforts of staff, resource limitations restrict what GDC is able to accomplish in terms of the monitoring, research and planning processes,” the report said.

“Similar limitations among iwi, hapu and stakeholders make it difficult for some groups to participate effectively in collaboration or to enact the practical changes that plans will require.”

Because of its limited resources, GDC was often unable to take part in national discussions, meaning its views and contexts were not well represented nationally.

“GDC has expressed strong frustration concerning the influence of national discussions and policy on its regional planning,” the report said.

Consequently the NPS had forced the council to “focus on nitrogen and phosphorous limits, which are relatively minor issues in the region compared with sediment and E.coli”.

“National contexts may have indirectly created greater problems for the region.”

Iwi and hapu interviewed for the review felt the role of national government in the process was “inadequate”.

They should have had a partnership role in developing the NPS and their lack of involvement indicated the Crown was “not committed to iwi partnership”.

Crown and GDC responsibility

The Crown and GDC should take responsibility for resourcing and supporting iwi and hapu to be fully engaged, they said.

The report expressed concern about GDC’s lack of involvement of iwi and hapu, despite “significant efforts”.

“We have some concern as to whether iwi and hapu, particularly small rural hapu, have been sufficiently involved in the governance and management of fresh water.”

Maori review participants said they felt they were not fully engaged as partners, and that GDC and the Crown treated iwi and hapu unequally, showing favour to Ngati Porou at the expense of smaller, less politically connected iwi and hapu with fewer resources.

There was also frustration in dealing with mostly “Pakeha or ‘town Maori’ council staff”.

“Some tangata whenua representatives were not satisfied council staff understand or appreciate te ao Maori concepts well enough to articulate them fully in plans or policies.”

The term mauri, often referred to as life-supporting capacity, was cited as especially problematic.

The difficulties were exacerbated by an “inherent difference in philosophies, where water is treated as a commodity by GDC and industry, but viewed by Maori as taonga with its own whakapapa (geneaology)”.

There was also a belief Maori had a proprietary right to water, which had been breached in violation of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Objectives lacking

GDC had not set high enough objectives given the “historical destruction of wetlands and contamination of water bodies”.

“Iwi and hapu wanted higher standards for swimmability, mahinga kai (food gathering) and the mauri of rivers because these are essential for cultural practice and community, as well as the environment or public health.”

The report noted the joint management agreement with Ngati Porou for the Waiapu catchment, development of the Mauri Compass, and the planned creation of a joint committee for governance with Turanga iwi Ngai Tamanuhiri, Rongowhakaata and Te Aitanga a Mahaki would help start to resolve this issue.

But it warned the problem would likely persist until iwi and hapu capacity and capability were improved.

The review found during community engagement sessions, including the freshwater advisory group, there was concern industry voices were dominating.

Some review participants reported they did not feel it was always a safe environment to speak freely and group members had considerable differences in capability.

Industry representatives were often paid, experienced and able to commit more time, the report said.

“By contrast, those from iwi and hapu or environmental groups were typically volunteers, with other demands on their time and little or no experience with collaboration.”

In the review, GDC expressed concern the Gisborne Freshwater Plan, approved by the council in August, would become a “costly and time-consuming legal battleground” for national sector groups trying to establish national precedents.

Sector groups consulted in the review indicated they would put full resources into the Gisborne legal challenges.
GDC was concerned about the additional costs of these challenges.

Overall, the report said GDC had made “significant progress” towards implementing the NPS.

It said the approach of addressing freshwater first at the regional scale, then adding catchment-specific chapters over time, was a “wise and efficient approach for its regional circumstances”.

Addressing the Waipaoa catchment first would have the “greatest and most immediate impact”. The catchment accounts for 90 percent of regional water demand and faces the greatest pressures on water quality and quantity.

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