Ngāti Kahungunu join Ngāi Tahu in legal action against Crown for freshwater rights

Source: 1News

Ngāti Kahungunu has announced it will join forces with Ngāi Tahu to take legal action against the Crown over shared control and management of freshwater. 

Ngahiwi Tomoana.

By Isobel Prasad

It comes after South Island iwi Ngāi Tahu lodged a statement of claim in the High Court in Christchurch at the end of last year, seeking recognition of its rangatiratanga over freshwater in the takiwā.

Rangatiratanga means the local iwi will have rights, responsibilities and obligations over managing freshwater in its area.

Ngāti Kahungunu, the eastern North Island iwi, reached out to Ngai Tahu following its court proceedings last year, and said "government inaction, over-allocation and lack of environmental protections" had led to degradation of traditional waterways and water bodies in its local takiwā.

Ngāti Kahungunu chairman, Ngahiwi Tomoana, said the issues must be addressed through "direct engagement between the Crown and the iwi whose freshwater has been most affected".

"We're going to the Crown to tell them our authority over the water is still extant and we want that recognised and operationalised.

He says the iwi has been fighting for its rights over freshwater for the past 20 years.

"We want a regulatory system based on our kawa and our tikanga, and based on our own mana so that we determine extraction, allocation, quality and quantity.

"At the moment we have to fix up the whole mess that previous and current regimes are making with overallocation, pollution and degradation of waterways".

Meanwhile, Ngāi Tūāhuriri Upoko, Dr Te Maire Tau, said it's hoped the Government will honour its relationship with Treaty of Waitangi partners as February 6 approaches.

Speaking to the media at Waitangi, Attorney-General and Minister for the Environment David Parker said he welcomed the legal action. 

"We are, of course, in a separate process involving Māoridom in our attempts to address water allocation," he said.

Parker said the Government was planning to focus on water allocation issues this year after spending last term focused on improving water quality.

The Government was already liaising with iwi, council and agricultural groups over the issues, he said.