Last week, Chris Finlayson, Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, made an announcement of crucial importance to Hawke’s Bay.

He announced that the Crown would work with the Regional Council and local iwi toward the establishment of a Regional Council Planning Committee. According to his statement, this mechanism “will allow iwi to effectively contribute towards planning for the use of natural resources and environmental outcomes through regional plans and regional policy statements.” Further …

“A single Planning Committee would allow iwi the participation they’ve been seeking, while fitting into existing Regional Council and resource management processes. This makes it an effective solution for the region and for iwi, and one that the Government will endorse in negotiations.”

The Regional Council has been working behind the scenes toward this outcome for about a year, holding confidential stakeholder briefings on the process back in November 2009. Here is the presentation made at the time, indicating the Council’s goals in trying to influence a process that is ultimately to be negotiated between the Crown and as many as nine Treaty Settlement Groups in Hawke’s Bay. In a worst case scenario, policy-making regarding management of the region’s natural resources could have been fragmented across  as many as seven “river boards” each dealing with several iwi.

Said HBRC Alan Dick of the announcement (download here in full, with Q&As): “The Crown’s proposal importantly recognises the care and governance of natural resources as a key issue for both claimant groups negotiating Treaty settlements and the wider region. The Council looks forward to working with the Treaty claimant groups so that we can arrive at the best possible outcome for our regional community.”

Now the Crown and the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council will discuss with iwi how the proposed Committee could work. It is expected that it will have equal representation of Regional Councillors and iwi representatives, and will develop and oversee policies and plans that the Council approves.

After these three-way discussions, the newly-elected Regional Council will receive a recommendation on the Joint Planning Committee in October.

As envisioned, the new policy body represents a major enhancement of the role of Maori in the region’s resource planning. Said Taro Waaka from Ngati Pahauwera: “This is an opportunity, a breakthrough whereby we can get some meaningful discussion, meaningful input by sitting beside councilors influencing things at a higher level.”

Here’s a bit more detail from last week’s announcement:

“The joint Regional Planning Committee would be charged with reviewing and making changes to the Regional Resource Management Plan. The Plan deals with regional issues such as water quality and quantity, air quality, coastal resources, indigenous vegetation and wetlands, gravel management and natural hazards.”

“The joint Regional Planning Committee would receive priorities for plan changes and any required technical information from the Council. The Committee would then work through the process of developing and consulting on a draft plan change, before refining it and referring the plan change back to the Regional Council for approval and public notification. All work of the Committee would be carried out in accordance with the Resource Management and Local Government Acts and maintain the rights of all parties to participate in the resource management process.”

“The joint Committee would not hear resource consent applications which would continue to be heard by specially appointed hearings panels.”

The Treaty of Waitangi guarantees the right of iwi to self-management of their resources in a context of partnership with the Crown. On a national scale, post Treaty Settlements, it is estimated that approximately 70% of NZ’s production forest land will be owned by iwi, and up to 30% of NZ agri-business will have an iwi dimension. Further, approximately 80% of iwi are dependent on the primary sector for their livelihood.

Of special interest here in Hawke’s Bay will be the evolution of water strategy within the framework of a Joint Regional Planning Committee.

As last year’s HBRC presentation notes, the Crown and National-led Government “acknowledges the need to dovetail Iwi partnerships alongside democratic governance.” If all goes to plan, “co-governance” is on the horizon. Clearly the days of cursory consultation with Maori are about to end.

Tom Belford

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  1. I thought we were one nation. That outlined in the posting is a dangerous road to venture down in democratic equality terms.

  2. Derek – as if the Westminster style of democracy (ie, pakeha process) has worked for Aotearoa's environment! I have faith that under the guardianship of the tangata whenua, in partnership, all New Zealanders – now and in the future – will have access to the enjoyment and use of these taonga far longer than under the current system.

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