A legislative Bill providing for “co-management” of the Waikato River by a joint committee of Waikato regional councillors and appointed Maori representatives is progressing through Parliament, receiving its second reading. According to NZ Farmer’s Weekly, the measure is a “done deal” with both National and Labour supporting the approach.

The Bill signals the approach likely to be taken here in Hawke’s Bay as treaty settlements are negotiated.

In Hawke’s Bay, the co-governance model in discussion would see a joint committee established, consisting of six of the elected Regional Councillors and six representatives appointed by Maori treaty negotiating groups (“Large Natural Groups” – LNGs). This committee would set policy for managing natural resources in the Bay.

Whether in Waikato or Hawke’s Bay, this new arrangement for setting resource policy represents a huge shift in governance … a shift that demands far more consultation with all stakeholders and the general public. Judging from the coverage in Farmer’s Weekly, little consultation has occurred in Waikato, causing serious consternation among farmer groups and local territorial bodies, among others.

In Hawke’s Bay, only the most superficial briefings have occurred (one cannot really call it “consultation”).

Ironically, Local Government Minister Hide, who had no reluctance in sacking Canterbury’s regional council, has re-invented himself as the champion of local democracy by opposing the Waikato co-management scheme (and by implication, others like it).

Says Hide to Farmer’s Weekly: “We [ACT] believe that when you are essentially regulating and controlling natural resources such as water and land, the people responsible should be subject to democratic control. That means if the community does not like it, the community can sack them … The people of Canterbury are going to be able to vote [in future], but in Waikato they won’t — ever.”

The HBRC doesn’t seem to want to talk about this subject. Perhaps they are being “gagged” by the Government, as the formal parties to the negotiations are the Crown and the Maori treaty LNGs.

Nevertheless, when I last checked, the Regional Council worked for the voters of Hawke’s Bay, not the Government. HBRC needs to start talking to its multiple constituencies about this weighty change.

Tom Belford

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3 Comments

  1. It does indeed … & if you go over the Horotiu bridge you will smell the H2S from the sewage outlet in to the Waikato River, it settles in that natural dip & raises to school level … as kids we used to boat there, pull the boat out & wash it to get rid of the fat residue from the freezing works and the trout at the outfall used to be bigger & fatter by far.

    & all managed by 'large natural groups,' including the psychologically biased mayor of Hamilton & pursuing agenda imposed by 'sheila besotted' Hide … indeed, what hope… but natural, some would even say elemental.

  2. There is little doubt the HBRC is covertly going down a co-governance path and it's a big mistake. The Treaty of Waitangi DID NOT envisage co-governance. We signed up to the Crown running the show, but with clear obligations to look after the interests of Maori. Central Government do this through Maori seats; HDC do it through the Maori Joint Committee. Both have their drawbacks but it reflects both organisations trying to engage Maori in order to represent ALL people. Our record might be patchy but it's clear Coucillors need to represent the interest of Maori as well as everyone else. If you then add an undemocratically appointed group that only looks after the interests of Maori, you have a mess on your hands. Can the councillors then just become the white man's lobby? You're basically saying we can never become one and have government for all. We must always be adversaries fighting for our own interests. They had it pretty well right in 1840 and it's madness to try to reinvent those constitutional arrangements.

  3. There has been a very effective set up with the Regional Council to consult with Maori through the Maori Committee.It has worked well.This setup was ahead of its time and allowed issues of concern to be addressed.

    The Regional Council has been secretly discussing co-governance with other parties for many months. This is a major departure from the current situation and should have been discussed openly and frankly at council.

    The Annual Plan document shows scant disregard for ratepayers by including a small item about possible changes that are being considered but in no way explains the extent or involvement of this council in an undemocratic system for the future use and management of our natural resources.

    Ratepayers reading the Annual Plan have no idea of the exact situation and this does nothing to alleviate the sceptical view of many when it comes to consultation and councils.

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