Partnerships with iwi are a priority

Meredith Akuhata-Brown

OPINION PIECE

There are no official council meetings this week however we will be meeting with the Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust on Wednesday to discuss our Joint Action Plan.

The relationships between local government and Maori are strategically important for both groups and are guided from the council’s perspective by a range of statutory legislation and formal agreements.

Although the Treaty of Waitangi was signed by representatives of hapu and the Crown, the Local Government Act imposes certain obligations on local government to reflect those Treaty obligations. One responsibility is an obligation to provide particular opportunities for Maori to contribute to the decision-making processes of a local authority. There is a range of other legislation that also imposes obligations on local government in relation to both the Treaty and Maori interests and values more generally.

Compliance with legislation is important for local authorities, but it should not be the sole basis for building relationships. We already have a Joint Management Agreement with Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou that contributes to resource management decision-making within the Waiapu catchment. This JMA provides for joint decisions around notified resource consent applications, plan changes and private plan changes. The JMA provides for the council and Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou to select hearing panel members; at least one member is appointed by each party.

This arrangement signalled significant progress in the building of relationships between Gisborne District Council and local iwi. While those relationships have not always been strong, fair or prominent, many local authorities are now developing enduring relationships with iwi and hapu in their districts. In some cases, Treaty settlements have been the catalyst for this, and in many cases there has been a significant improvement in the knowledge and understanding of tikanga Maori and of the role and responsibilities of local government, particularly around resource management issues. There are many opportunities for mutual benefit and advancement that are now being realised.

So what is a partnership? There are a number of definitions and varying themes to what partnership means, but “to be in partnership” invokes notions of equal participation. A more precise definition could be “a legal relation existing between two or more persons contractually associated or a relationship resembling a legal partnership and usually involving close co-operation between parties having specified and joint rights and responsibilities”.

The Treaty signified a partnership between indigenous peoples and new European settlers, and each partner had to act towards the other “with the utmost good faith which is the characteristic obligation of partnership”. The obligations of partnership include the duty to consult Maori and to obtain the full, free and informed consent of the correct right holders in any transaction for their land and other taonga or treasured possessions.

Above all, the partnership is a reciprocal one, involving fundamental exchanges for mutual advantage and benefits. Maori offered the Crown kawanatanga (governance) opportunities in return for a guarantee that their tino rangatiratanga (full authority) over their land, people, and taonga would be protected. Maori also provided the right of pre-emption over sale of our lands to the Crown on the basis that this would be exercised in a protective manner and in our own interests, so that settlers coming into the country could proceed in a fair and mutually advantageous manner.

Partnership is realised as we collaborate with Maori and non-Maori to develop, implement, and review policies, practices, and procedures. By working collaboratively, we learn to share power, control and decision-making while validating the unique position of Maori as tangata whenua and recognising the unique contribution Maori make to every community and the country as a whole.

There are no official council meetings this week however we will be meeting with the Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust on Wednesday to discuss our Joint Action Plan.

The relationships between local government and Maori are strategically important for both groups and are guided from the council’s perspective by a range of statutory legislation and formal agreements.

Although the Treaty of Waitangi was signed by representatives of hapu and the Crown, the Local Government Act imposes certain obligations on local government to reflect those Treaty obligations. One responsibility is an obligation to provide particular opportunities for Maori to contribute to the decision-making processes of a local authority. There is a range of other legislation that also imposes obligations on local government in relation to both the Treaty and Maori interests and values more generally.

Compliance with legislation is important for local authorities, but it should not be the sole basis for building relationships. We already have a Joint Management Agreement with Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou that contributes to resource management decision-making within the Waiapu catchment. This JMA provides for joint decisions around notified resource consent applications, plan changes and private plan changes. The JMA provides for the council and Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou to select hearing panel members; at least one member is appointed by each party.

This arrangement signalled significant progress in the building of relationships between Gisborne District Council and local iwi. While those relationships have not always been strong, fair or prominent, many local authorities are now developing enduring relationships with iwi and hapu in their districts. In some cases, Treaty settlements have been the catalyst for this, and in many cases there has been a significant improvement in the knowledge and understanding of tikanga Maori and of the role and responsibilities of local government, particularly around resource management issues. There are many opportunities for mutual benefit and advancement that are now being realised.

So what is a partnership? There are a number of definitions and varying themes to what partnership means, but “to be in partnership” invokes notions of equal participation. A more precise definition could be “a legal relation existing between two or more persons contractually associated or a relationship resembling a legal partnership and usually involving close co-operation between parties having specified and joint rights and responsibilities”.

The Treaty signified a partnership between indigenous peoples and new European settlers, and each partner had to act towards the other “with the utmost good faith which is the characteristic obligation of partnership”. The obligations of partnership include the duty to consult Maori and to obtain the full, free and informed consent of the correct right holders in any transaction for their land and other taonga or treasured possessions.

Above all, the partnership is a reciprocal one, involving fundamental exchanges for mutual advantage and benefits. Maori offered the Crown kawanatanga (governance) opportunities in return for a guarantee that their tino rangatiratanga (full authority) over their land, people, and taonga would be protected. Maori also provided the right of pre-emption over sale of our lands to the Crown on the basis that this would be exercised in a protective manner and in our own interests, so that settlers coming into the country could proceed in a fair and mutually advantageous manner.

Partnership is realised as we collaborate with Maori and non-Maori to develop, implement, and review policies, practices, and procedures. By working collaboratively, we learn to share power, control and decision-making while validating the unique position of Maori as tangata whenua and recognising the unique contribution Maori make to every community and the country as a whole.

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G R Webb - 3 months ago
So what is collaborative about a veto that local iwi have on the use of the outfall pipe for the discharge of municipal wastewater into the waters of Turanganui a Kiwa/Poverty Bay - no matter what treatment processes have been undertaken?

Manu Caddie - 3 months ago
Mr Webb, I guess we could say that iwi veto (which isn't actually the case) over treated wastewater discharges into the bay is collaborative in that it is designed to rectify the 50-odd years where raw sewage was pumped into the bay against iwi protestations when they had almost no ability to influence the decision-making by governors and city officials who had assumed their worldview was superior and Maori objections were of no consequence. It seems the same forces of Pakeha privilege are still holding out in some musty corners of the city in the vain hope we can go back to the glory days when pale, stale males got to run the whole show.

G R Webb - 3 months ago
No where is it suggested by me that there should not be a collaborative approach. Those also advocating it should act consistently. We will disagree on what is a veto but the Environment Court had a few interesting things to say about it in the 1993 Outfall decision. Finally, I hope you know it was the crusty old, pale, male judges of the Court of Appeal back in 1987 that developed the partnership theme. Mr Caddie, that theme is not based on an eye for an eye.

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