Over the past couple of years Ngai Tahu has been negotiating with the government over the form of 3 Waters legislation. Local government, the owners of the water assets, was invited late to the table.
In the past couple of months Ngai Tahu has become increasingly strident toward local government councils which have joined the grouping Communities 4 Local Democracy which has been challenging the government’s proposed model which would remove water services from local control.
The first publicity on Ngai Tahu being unhappy was with the Runanga in Otago.
In the Otago Daily Times https://i.stuff.co.nz/pou-tiaki/128136924/mana-whenua-leave-one-sided-relationship-with-dunedin-council the two Runanga in Otago said publicly:
The Dunedin area’s two Rununga, or tribal council, have left the council’s (DCC) Māori advisory group, the Māori Participation Working Party, putting the fate of several city projects up in the air.
The move was in response to the DCC voting to join and fund an anti-Three Waters group, despite a Ngāi Tahu leader telling council hours earlier that iwi had serious concerns with the group.
The Runanga members at a meeting with DCC accused the Council of not consulting with them about 3 Waters. The chair of the Infrastructure Committee at DCC, Dr Jim O’Malley, challenged this and pointed to two unanswered emails he had sent to the two Runanga seeking meetings to discuss the governments proposed 3 Waters reforms. The response from one of the Runanga reps at the meeting was when they had received Jim O’Malley’s letter they had contacted Ngai Tahu’s Head Office and had been told not to respond.
Co-governance should be about two parties able to conduct dialogue and debate issues openly.
The threats from Runanga led to a further meeting at DCC and by majority the Council left the group Communities 4 Local Democracy. Here’s the report on this in the ODT https://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/dcc/council-schism-over-three-waters-broad.
Having succeeded in Dunedin then Te Maire Tau turned the heat up on Christchurch, and any other Council in the South Island which had also joined Communities 4 Local Democracy.
In an article https://www.newsroom.co.nz/racist-three-waters-rhetoric-damages-council-iwi-relations in Newsroom this week it was reported:
Ngāi Tahu frustration has come to a head this month. Iwi representatives have written to the mayors of Waimakariri, Christchurch and Dunedin to warn that their governance partnership will be jeopardised if the councils continue to “hitch their wagon to a splinter group” opposing the Three Waters reforms – a group that they accuse of racist rhetoric.
“Communities 4 Local Democracy have certainly not got any input at all from any runanga or Māori community within the South Island,” says Tau, who is chair of the Ngāi Tahu freshwater group Te Kura Taka Pini. “It’s as simple as that.
“We don’t like Communities 4 Local Democracy. And simply one of the reasons is they haven’t engaged, but we’re also quite aware of quite racist comments that have been coming through from them.”
The article went on:
Dan Gordon, the mayor of Waimakariri, is deputy chair of the Communities 4 Local Democracy group and is suing the Government, on behalf of 31 councils that oppose the water reforms.
“Our chair has given notice that we’re not satisfied with the position they’ve taken,” says Tau, whose family lives at Tuahiwi Marae in Waimakariri. “So, we haven’t attended the last meeting and we’ll be following through. We’ll be hardening our position, I expect.”
The council group’s defenders accuse Ngāi Tahu of “bully-boy tactics”.
But Tau says councils throughout the South Island have signed up to the group and its “racism” without regard to their first duty to consult the manawhenua. He is urging councils to pay heed to the 50-50 co-governance structure for Three Waters infrastructure, proposed in the Department of Internal Affairs’ reforms.
Under the Three Waters reform, four new regional corporations will be created to take on the water services – drinking, waste and storm water – owned by New Zealand’s 67 city and district councils. There will be an even iwi-local government split on the new corporations’ representative bodies, which would in turn appoint the corporations’ directors.
The “racism” they often refer to is the Mayor of Westland, Bruce Smith, who questioned why 15% of the population should control 50% of the water resources. Let us reflect on the actions of Bruce Smith, and the Westland District Council. After all, actions speak louder than words. Here is an extract from an agreement between the local Ngai Tahu Runanga on the West Coast and Westland District Council four years ago, in 2018:
The following outlines the expectations of each party across aspects of the partnership.
6. 1 Westland District Council agrees to:
Provide non -confidential information to the Kaiwhakarite who act on behalf of Papatipu Runanga to assist the operations of Papatipu Runanga and to build the capability of Poutini Ngai Tahu and Maori to participate in Council decision making
Provide governance support and training to Kaiwhakarite appointed to Council and Council committees
Consider joint submissions to central government with Papatipu Runanga when appropriate
Work together with Papatipu Runanga on the formulation, design and execution of work to implement the Council’ s statutory responsibilities towards Maori
Work together with Papatipu Runanga to increase the participation of Maori in Council processes and initiatives generally
Promote opportunities for Maori within Council
6. 2 Poutini Ngai Tahu agree to:
Develop views and provide input on Council policy, plans, strategy and operations that may impact on Poutini Ngai Tahu and Maori, and the Westland community
Actively keep Poutini Ngai Tahu whanau engaged- across multiple channels including direct engagement with Poutini Ngai Tahu stakeholders monthly, on partnership related progress and to inform Poutini Ngai Tahu input into Council decision making
Provide non -confidential information to Council to assist the mutual goals of each party
Consider joint submissions to central government with Council when appropriate
Work with Council on the formulation, design and execution of work to implement the Council’ s statutory responsibilities towards Poutini Ngai Tahu
Promote the participation of Maori in Council processes and initiatives generally Promote opportunities for Maori within Council.
In the past 4 years the 2 Chairs of West Coast Runanga have sat at the Council table. This is an extremely good, and transparent, example of co-governance.
I rang Francois Tumahai, who is one of the chairs, about how this arrangement was working, and he was effusive in his praise for Bruce Smith who had led this initiative. If this man is the racist which Ngai Tahu have labelled him to be, then maybe we need to redefine “racist”. Maybe we could use the relationship of the Runanga on the West Coast and the Westland District Council as a definition of what “co-governance” really looks like in practice.
Dan Gordon, The Mayor of Waimakariri and deputy chair of Communities 4 Local Democracy, replied to Newsroom with this comment.
“Our group is committed to genuine partnership with mana whenua and a reform proposal that is durable, supported and fit for purpose. It is important reform at this level is supported across the sector. Communities 4 Local Democracy represent a significant percentage of the local government sector and over 1.4 million New Zealanders.
“We are seeking a pause so we can work with the Government on a way forward that works for everyone. A vital part of this is developing a true partnership with mana whenua with hui and kōrero about how we best achieve this.”
The ‘Racist’ label is being used too freely to discount what organisations, committed to genuine dialogue, are saying. It reflects councils genuinely trying to find a workable solution that includes co-governance.
These councils are challenging the corporate model being advocated by the government. They are promoting regional solutions, which would enhance mana whenua’s ability to manage and participate in decision making on water planning. Just as they do on the West Coast.
If you add Auckland Council which has also written a critical document on the government’s proposed reforms this group plus Auckland represent over 3 million NZ’ers. It is therefore inaccurate describing this as a “splinter” group.
In Stuff this week in this article https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/128227607/a-bit-of-an-impasse-ngi-tahu-expresses-concern-about-christchurch-council-joining-three-waters-splinter-group it was stated:
Tension continues to mount between Ngāi Tahu and three of the South Island’s biggest councils about their involvement with a three waters-related “splinter group”, with one Christchurch City councillor describing the situation as “a bit of an impasse”.
Ngāi Tahu has expressed concern to the Christchurch City Council about the council’s decision in December to join the group, Communities 4 Local Democracy He hapori mo te Manapori (C4LD).
C4LD is developing an alternative solution to the Government’s three waters reforms, which would transfer control of water infrastructure from councils to four mega entities. The entities would be co-governed by councils and iwi.
The article continued:
Tau said iwi had not been involved in the development of C4LD’s alternative model. The model provided no meaningful way for iwi to participate in governance, he said.
It’s not fair to accuse the Councils of not consulting with Ngai Tahu as they were defending the loss of our publicly owned assets into big corporates, at the same time that the iwi was negotiating with the government unbeknown to local government.
The government by decree, intends removing the water assets, paid for by ratepayers over generations, off every council in New Zealand. These assets will be handed over to 4 big corporates and most local input will be lost.
My conclusion? If this is co-governance, then we need to have a hard think about how it is applied, and its boundaries. It’s not too late for us to all talk to each other sensibly. At the moment it is the litany of the deaf and we can do much better than this. For future generations let us not stuff this up.