Giving greater strength to the mana of waterways and recognising mahinga kai (natural resources) as a key measure of freshwater health are positive inclusions in the Government’s new Action for Healthy Waterways Package, says Te Arawa Lakes Trust.

Both actions were sought by the Trust in submissions to the Crown, but the Trust says it is disappointed the new Package does not address the recognition of hapū and iwi rights and interests in freshwater.

Trust chairman Dr Sir Toby Curtis says this recognition “continues to be left for another day”, but it is a critical issue that needs resolution.

“Te Arawa Lakes Trust expects to be directly engaged in the next phase of work to address fair allocation and hapū and iwi rights and interests in freshwater.”

The new waterways Package has been designed to ultimately restore and protect New Zealand’s wai.

It introduces new rules and regulations to stop further degradation of New Zealand’s freshwater resources, improve water quality within five years, reverse past damage and bring New Zealand’s freshwater resources, waterways and ecosystems to a healthy state within a generation.

The new Package was released for public consultation last year, with Te Arawa Lakes Trust just one of a range of organisations submitting on the proposal.

Dr Sir Toby Curtis says overall, the Trust is pleased with the strengthening of Te Mana o Te Wai (a cultural framework specific to water management) as a fundamental concept in relation to water management.

Te Mana o Te Wai requires the health of waterbodies to be addressed first, then the health and essential needs of people and finally the needs of other uses.

“Implementing Te Mana o Te Wai will require local authorities and tangata whenua to work together to ensure greater protection of Māori values, including setting a long-term vision for water which is informed by the aspirations of tangata whenua and communities.”

The new package will also require councils to investigate options for tangata whenua involvement such as joint management agreements, and to publicly report on decisions around whether to use these options.

“Through our Te Tūāpapa values framework we have already done extensive work to identify what determines healthy waterways for Te Arawa. This work was recently recognised in the New Zealand Planning Institute Awards.

“We’ve also looked at ways to measure the health of our lakes from a cultural perspective, with our hapū and iwi providing the mātauranga contained in Te Tūāpapa to measure the state of our  water; this includes considering cultural factors, such as  swimming, water used for ceremonial purposes and the ability to collect kai from them.”

Dr Sir Toby says it is pleasing to see mahinga kai recognised as a compulsory value – an important move for the protection of Te Arawa customary fisheries.

“We are pleased to see mahinga kai elevated and emphasised as a compulsory measure of freshwater health, taking its place alongside other compulsory values such as ecosystem health and human health for recreation. This will assist the Trust to preserve the habitat of our taonga species in Te Arawa Lakes.

“The new package will help strengthen Māori involvement in freshwater management, but ultimately we all want the same thing – to restore our waters to a pristine condition that can be enjoyed for many generations to come.”

Dr Sir Toby says while many of TALT’s submission points have been reflected in the package released today, it is disappointed not to see a more balanced membership on freshwater panels, with provision of just one of five seats to be nominated by tangata whenua.

Te Arawa Lakes Trust is responsible for the sustainable management of 14 lakes within the wider Rotorua region, including Lake Rotorua and Lake Rotoiti.

The lakebeds were returned to Te Arawa under the 2006 Te Arawa Lakes Settlement Act, with the Trust established in 2007 to manage its assets.

Today, it undertakes a range of its own projects to help protect and restore the lakes, while it also works in partnership with other agencies to achieve better water quality outcomes. This includes working with Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Rotorua Lakes Council on the Strategy Group, which ensures a collaborative effort towards achieving the freshwater goals.

For more information on what the Freshwater package contains please visit https://www.mfe.govt.nz/action-for-healthy-waterways