The new River co-management agreement involving Waikato-Tainui and other iwi is positive for the health of the river and the wider regional environment, says Environment Waikato chairman Peter Buckley.
Cr Buckley – a farmer who has previously declared his “personal” commitment to the river and its protection – said the agreement involving Waikato-Tainui, Te Arawa, Ngati Maniapoto, Ngati Raukawa and Ngati Tuwharetoa would bring “important iwi knowledge and experience to bear”.
“Today’s river settlement signing between the Crown and Waikato-Tainui means more resources – both human and financial – for protecting the river, which is precious to all of our cultures in the region.
“Those extra resources add further kaha or strength to the existing efforts of the regional council, iwi and others to protect and restore the health of the river.”
But Cr Buckley said the agreement left open the question of what statutory environmental management powers might be transferred to a new Waikato River Statutory Board covering the lower half of the river. Half of the board’s positions will be filled by Waikato-Tainui representatives, while the rest will come from local government.
“Any transfer of statutory powers has potential implications for resource users along the river and the wider community. As we work through the detail of what may be proposed, Environmental Waikato councillors will focus strongly on representing the interests of all of the communities they represent.”
In the lead up to the agreement, Waikato-Tainui, local government representatives and others had developed a Proposed Vision and Strategy for the WaikatoRiver. In expressing its support previously for this vision and strategy, Environment Waikato had said its goals were generally common to those of the council, and to views expressed by the community in the regional council’s surveys.
Under the new arrangements, Environment Waikato will have to give effect to the vision and strategy of a Guardians of the WaikatoRiver body, involving iwi, in the council’s Regional Policy Statement and plans. It will also have to have regard to the vision and strategy when processing resource consent applications.
Many of the river management strategies being envisaged under the new arrangements will involve Environment Waikato, either as an agency which collects and holds data on the Waikato River or one that undertakes environmental management functions that impact on the river.