Environment Waikato has welcomed the opportunity to be involved in the consultation process to establish new governance and management structures for the Waikato River.
Chairman Jenni Vernon said Environment Waikato recognised Tainui’s unique relationship with the Waikato River and welcomed the focus of the draft Agreement in Principle (AIP) between the Crown and Waikato-Tainui for the settlement of Waikato-Tainui’s historical Treaty claims to the river.
“Environment Waikato shares Tainui’s vision to protect and enhance the Waikato River and is looking forward to working closely with Waikato-Tainui and others on the vision and strategy to improve the health of the river,” she said.
“The challenge we all face is that the progress Environment Waikato and its predecessors have made in cleaning up the river over the past 20 years is in danger of being lost by the effects of land use intensification.
“The proposed settlement brings together the Crown, Waikato-Tainui, Environment Waikato and others to address these difficult issues of sustainability in an integrated way for the benefit of all New Zealanders.”
Cr Vernon said the draft agreement did not confer property or ownership rights over the river or water.
The draft agreement proposes the establishment of the “Guardians of the Waikato River” made up of representatives of Waikato-Tainui, other iwi along the river, the Crown, and Environment Waikato.
The Guardians would be responsible for developing a high level vision for the Waikato River, which Environment Waikato would have to give effect to in its policies and plans under the Resource Management Act (RMA).
The draft agreement also proposes a separate statutory board made up of equal numbers of Tainui and Environment Waikato councillors. It is anticipated the board would assist with the implementation of the strategy required to realise the vision.
Environment Waikato will continue to have the same responsibilities under the RMA for water quality, water allocation, and other functions.
“There will be changes to some of the ways in which the river is governed and Environment Waikato appreciates the Crown’s commitment to consult with affected parties before finalising this important document.”