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Hapū and iwi experiences of co-governance

Hapū and iwi members working in co-governance who have been interviewed publicly have generally welcomed the process. Those responses are listed first. Some people have also identified challenges for hapū and iwi, those responses are summarised second.

Challenges for hapū and iwi:

A Ngāti Toa perspective on co-governance

Helmut Karewa Modlik, chief executive of Ngāti Toa

Helmet Modlik’s opinion piece in Stuff supplies the basic history behind co-governance with a trenchant iwi perspective.“Treaty settlements for decades have included proposals from the Crown for co-governance throughout the country of various natural resources – rivers, lakes, mountains.. These co-governance arrangements were proposed by the Crown as non-financial recompense for losses in lieu of Tiriti breaches; ie, we stole them, we won’t give them back, but you can join us in their co-governance. Kia ora for that.”

From: Helmut Modlik, March 2023, We've been doing co-governance all along, just look at the Treaty, Stuff.

Waikato River Authority

The Waikato River Authority was set up after Treaty settlements with iwi that have close ties to the Waikato and Waipa rivers. Its co-chairs were Tukuroirangi Morgan (Waikato-Tainui leader) and Crown Co-chair Hon John Luxton, a former dairy farmer and National Party Cabinet member.  Tukuroirangi Morgan has said “Unlike these councils that scrap and disagree and have extreme views, here we have two chairs, both of us from different worlds, marshalling our two sides. Never in the eight years I was chair and the Honourable John Luxton was chair, did we ever have to go to a vote. Where there were differences we talked and talked until we came to a consensus decision.”  "The defining thing that made this work is that we all had a common purpose – the health and wellbeing of the river. It wasn’t about whether you belong to the National Party or the Labour Party, or ACT, or the council; the supreme and paramount issue was what was best for the river."​

From Nikki Mandow, Co-governance - It’s nothing like you thinkNewsroom.

Tukuroirangi Morgan, co-chair Waikato River Authority

Iwi monitoring Lake Taupo water quality

Shane Heremaia, [Former] CEO Tūwharetoa Māori Trust Board

Shane Heremaia says that Waikato Regional Council’s transfer of some functions under the RMA to the Trust Board is a small step in the right direction towards greater shared power between local government and iwi. “I think certainly there has always been a lot of will on the part of iwi to be more involved in affairs that are affecting us and our environment.  Iwi around the country in the last 30 years have been very keen to see this sort of work happening.” Heremaia thinks the transfer of water quality monitoring makes sense for Ngāti Tūwharetoa, presenting an opportunity to expand the knowledge it has of its own waters as well as strengthening its council relationships. “We’re here and we have the ability. We’ve been living here for a very long time and Ngāti Tūwharetoa is very connected to our waterways. While it’s quite a small step – it’s just collecting water samples and sending them off – it is an acknowledgement also that there are some functions of the council that may well be more appropriately situated within the iwi and when that’s the case, it should happen.”

​From: Alice Webb-Liddall, 2020, Finally, a council has transferred responsibilities to iwi for the first time under the RMA, The Spinoff.

Gerrard Albert.png

Te Kōpuka nā Te Awa Tupua

Te Kōpuka is the group charged with developing a management strategy for Te Awa Tupua, the Whanganui River. It includes representatives from iwi, local bodies, and one each for environmental and conservation, tourism, and recreational interests, and the primary sector.Asked about the Whanganui River iwi view of co-governance, Whanganui iwi leader Gerrard Albert said “Some see it as a 50-50 representative model, some as having Māori wards. In our context, Te Awa Tupua isn't co-governance but a much stronger framework.  It is community governance, which has hapū, iwi and community working together effectively, removing barriers to co-operation and making democracy work better for all.“ Te Awa Tupua is a community-led model where hapū and iwi are just part of the picture.  Māori are part of our community and have a distinct voice within that community.  Democracy exists to provide for that, to ensure voices are heard.  Unfortunately, people see co-governance or any co-operative arrangement that includes Māori as a threat, and of course, it isn't.”“Councillors exist to provide for a fair, equitable and just society, and to make decisions on that basis.  Te Awa Tupua has taken a step toward what we need as a more effective, democratic community around our river.“ In Te Kōpuka, local government bodies have four votes around the table. The rest go straight to the community by having primary industries, tourism, recreation and environmental interests at the table.“If you look at Te Pūwaha, the Whanganui port redevelopment, it's a community-led model which isn't relying on the councils to make decisions, but on the community being engaged to guide the process – a much stronger democratic model.”​

From: Moana Ellis, 2022, Gerrard Albert: Why Whanganui River tribes have moved beyond co-governance to a new model for better democracy, Whanganui Chronicle.

Gerrard Albert, Whanganui Iwi Leader

Kotahitanga mō te Taiao Alliance

David Johnston, [Former] Co-chair Kotahitanga mō te Taiao Alliance (Te Wai Pounamu)

The Kotahitanga mō te Taiao Alliance involves 16 organisations – eight iwi, six councils, the Department of Conservation, and a non-profit organisation, the Nature Conservancy Aotearoa NZ.“David Johnston (Ngāti Porou) is Alliance co-chair and general manager for Ngāti Kuia Trust. He experienced decades of corporate and local Government decision-making in his banking and management work. By contrast, he says co-governance is “incredible”. “Look at a council - you might have 49 percent of people around the table who disagree with what’s being decided. We’re the opposite - the whole collective has to agree before we decide to do something. If one person disagrees, we haven’t done the work.“We’re not making decisions based on three-yearly election cycles, or what is flavour of the month, or what someone said was good. We are making decisions on what is going to make the biggest difference.”

From Nikki Mandow, 2023, Co-governance – it’s nothing like you think, Newsroom.

Challenges for hapū and iwi

Co-governance of Parakai, Kaipara

David Johnston, [Former] Co-chair Kotahitanga mō te Taiao Alliance (Te Wai Pounamu)

Ngā Maunga Whakahii o Kaipara chair Dame Naida Glavish says obtaining a true balance of mana in managing Parakai in partnership with the council has been a long and arduous journey for the Iwi.“The council has always seen itself as the ultimate decision-maker and key authority in the management of whenua, so this has been an extremely difficult process for our people. Changing the westernised mindset is never easy."Ngā Maunga Whakahii refused to give up and we maintained our momentum and kept the kōrero going, which helped us take another step towards equality in this relationship.”

From: Te Ao Maori News, March 2022, Ngā Maunga Whakahī o Kaipara opens new offices.

Newton Central School

Most of the heat around co-governance in New Zealand has come from the Pākehā side, Margie Tukerangi says Māori are also hesitant. “Our people go into co-governance with apprehension. Given the history of dealing with race through the Treaty of Waitangi, it’s natural for people to be reluctant … People are dealing with the wrath of being burnt, and they are looking for authenticity.” 

Tukerangi stresses that the idea of partnership needs to be reflected right through the organisation, not just at the top. “If you are going to have partnership at the top, you have to have partnership at the bottom. In non-Māori organisations, the structure is often top down, but we operate the other way. The basis of iwi/hapū leadership is that leaders are no greater than the people they represent.  Having a co-governance structure at the top of an organisation which doesn’t have partnership right through, is “a box-ticking exercise.  Iwi are fed up with box-ticking”.

The issue of frustratingly long meetings is another criticism people level at co-governance, particularly from Western people outside (or sometimes inside) the process.  “It’s another example of two different worldviews”, Tukerangi says. “The Western concept is all about time – finish your meeting and leave. The Māori view is about the richness of connection. This is who I am, this is where I am from.” She doesn’t have problems with long hui “as long as there’s substance in the kōrero”.

From: Nikki Mandow, 2023, ‘It sends shivers down my spine what we manage to achieve’Newsroom.

Margie Tukerangi (Ngāti Whatua) Co-chair of Newton Central School

Summaries of other challenges

These three reports, one about future issues for local government and the other two case studies of environmental co-governance involving iwi in northern Te Waipounamu/the South Island and Tairāwhiti/East Coast, highlight the most common, and inter-related, challenges of inequities in capacity and funding.  

As the Draft Report by the Review for the Future of Local Government points out, 

While the economic base of hapū/iwi has improved with the course of historical settlements, many groups are still consolidating assets and building tribal infrastructure, and the historical settlement model was not designed to fund participation in contemporary public governance.  

The South Island case study report says:

This chronic inequitable deficit pattern, and the corresponding burden on ngā iwi to utilise Treaty Settlement funds, despite being ratepayers in their own right, has significant adverse impacts on the quality of environmental outcomes, on the cohesion and productivity of communities, on the wellbeing of individual whānau, hapū and iwi, and on the Treaty partnership.

The case study report also says that “the piecemeal nature of funding does not provide a secure basis for Pou Taiao to carry out long term planning to increase staff numbers” and that there is “an extremely limited number of people able and available to carry forward the work of kaitiaki iwi and hapū with water, waterway environments and associated taonga species.”

The East Coast case study summarises the personnel involved in freshwater management across Gisborne District Council  and Ngāti Porou and finds:

All Council team members fulfil this as part of their remunerated employment. One member of the Ngāti Porou team is remunerated (in the same way as team members on Council are). The others will have their contribution in time recognised by koha and travel costs being met.

Another concern has been the difficulty in establishing a meaningful relationship with local authorities, which can mean that engagements seem transactional rather than relational.  In the South Island case study: 

There is a clear sense that current expressions of kaitiakitanga are reactive – responding to resource consent applications, contributing to council plans and policies, preparing reports to inform council processes, or explain repeatedly Te Ao Māori and associated tangata whenua values. Trying to retrofit kaitiaki values and priorities into bureaucratic systems, which are focused on other purposes and framed within a different paradigm, has proved problematic. This continual reactivity is enormously demanding on ngā iwi time, energy, commitment and spirit.

The Draft Report about local government makes the same point:

… participants felt that Māori interacting with councils were too often expected to work solely within ‘western’ work practices, with little acknowledgement of tikanga beyond the use of karakia in meetings…. They felt interactions need to become much more grounded in a permanent, evolving relationship, rather than being stand-alone transactions when council wishes to engage.

The Draft Report emphasises the need for good relationships:

We feel strongly that legislative change and formal models for co-governance can only provide the framing for partnership – no relationship can flourish if the parties do not have the time or the ability to nurture it, and to fulfil their obligations to each other in the fullest sense. This is not a new issue, but we cannot emphasise enough how important we think it is.

It also makes strong recommendations that address the issues identified above.

Review into the Future for Local Government/Te Arotake i te Anamata mō Ngā Kaunihera, 2022. He mata whāriki, he matawhānui - Draft report, Wellington. See especially page 11. 

Te Tauihu working group, 2021, Te mana o te Wai: Te Tauihu Case Study Report, Vol 1, Our Land and Water National Science Challenge. See especially pp. 28 - 31 ‘What’s not working well’.

Pia Pohatu and Kate Walker (2021) Waiapu Koka Huhua: Hapū leading Te Mana o te Wai.

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