Regional councils are using RPSs and RPs as the primary framework for the participation of Māori in freshwater management. These documents are using a broad range of tools; however, there is little consistency across the country. Long-term council community plans reviewed are the mechanism for funding activities that support Māori participation in local government decision-making including freshwater management. There are, however, a few examples where LTCCPs are providing some direction for Māori participation.
For Māori, iwi planning documents and statutory acknowledgements appear to be the primary mechanisms for ‘triggering’ participation of iwi in freshwater management. Where iwi do not have iwi planning documents and statutory acknowledgements, resource consent consultation and policy/plan review appear to be opportunities for participation.
Consultation was identified in less than half of the reviewed iwi management plans as a tool or mechanism. This was contrasted by the mention of partnerships and relationships in iwi management plans. Furthermore, the statutory consultation requirements in the RMA, LGA and other legislation are not consistent. This facilitates confusion and does not meet expectations of councils and Māori.
There appear to be gaps in the provision of relevant information between councils and Māori. This includes submissions, cultural impact assessments and liaison. The gaps appear to be related to variable capability and capacity of councils and Māori.
There are few education tools being implemented whilst education is consistently identified in RPSs and plans.
Iwi respondents did not believe that statutory documents such as RPS, RP and LTCCP were working for them. This appears to be influenced by the low number of plans directly affecting Māori and the low levels of Māori participation in their development.
Iwi respondents expressed concern for the perceived lack of recognition of cultural values in policy, process and implementation.
The Local Government Act directs councils to provide opportunities for the Māori communities of interest to contribute to decision-making processes. These opportunities are facilitated by formal policies and processes, supported by competent staff and decision-makers who understand Māori issues. Recent historical legislation relating to the Treaty of Waitangi settlements have included prescriptive provisions for joint management/co-governance regimes, specific plans and participation in resource consent processes. Recent post-settlement governance and management structures that incorporate Māori representation appear to be working well and add to the body of best practice.
RPSs that included specific sections on tāngata whenua or iwi matters stood out as good examples of linking issue, policy and action.
Cultural assessments (also known as cultural impact assessments or CIAs) are more commonly used by iwi to articulate effects on cultural values when assessing a resource consent application, designation and district plan changes. This tool was seldom mentioned in the interviews and does not feature strongly in the literature. This could be influenced by the relatively recent advent of the cultural impact assessment and discipline.
Water conservation orders under the RMA have been used on occasion to protect and preserve the outstanding features or characteristics of particular freshwater bodies. Water conservation orders can provide for “the protection of characteristics which any water body has or contributes to, and which are considered to be of outstanding significance in accordance with tikanga Māori” (http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1991/0069/latest/DLM236752.html). While iwi and regional councils have not mentioned water conservation orders as a potential tool, it should be noted that iwi can, and do, participate in water conservation order processes. For example, submissions by Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu to the Special Tribunal for the Rangitata River Water led to recognition of its “significance in accordance with tikanga Māori”.
Water permits for cultural purposes are a potential tool to preserve rights to a water body or resource. Mentioned only once in a workshop they have not been identified in the literature.
The RMA, at its inception, included a third schedule ‘Water Quality Classes’, which included standards for water after receiving contaminants. ‘Class C Water’ managed for cultural purposes cannot be altered in those characteristics which have a direct bearing upon specified cultural or spiritual values. This class of water was the last of 11 listed and one of three that had no measurable or specific measures. It may be possible to identify a list of characteristics that could inform the development of cultural indicators.
There are significant gaps in addressing Māori expectations to participate at all levels in freshwater management. This is contributed to by low levels of iwi capacity or capability and the high volume of matters that need to be responded to. It would be prudent to either increase capability or capacity in iwi authorities and/or lower expectations.
This review has identified a tension between science and cultural values. This is most obvious within RPSs and RPs which have a strong basis in natural sciences. Iwi respondents expressed the view that science had precedence over cultural values. Previous research and anecdotal evidence would suggest this occurs due to the reliance on measurable data to make decisions, particularly with regard to water quality and allocation.
There is a divergence between Māori principles in the RMA (sections 6e, 7a and 8) and Māori principles expressed in iwi management plans eg, Manaakitanga, Rangatiratanga, Kotahitanga, Tumanako, Mauri and partnership. There is a divergence between the priority or weighting placed on the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi in the RMA and those articulated in iwi management plans (active protection, partnership, and kaitiakitanga). This can lead to a narrow focus of the values expressed in the RMA environment. A number of respondents have identified cultural values as a key area in need of further work, particularly in articulating methods or measures for recognising Māori cultural values on the ground.
The Treaty settlement process in recent times has provided some iwi with resources, capacity and mandate to influence the management of freshwater resources. Whilst this is positive, there are significant barriers to those iwi who have settled early and those who do not wish to wait for a Treaty settlement to have access to statutory acknowledgements and other mechanisms to improve their participation in freshwater management. Significant also is the inability to update statutory acknowledgements as they are perceived to be ‘written in stone’. Such updates may not be achievable given that statutory acknowledgements are set out in Deeds of Settlement and reflected in the specific settlement legislation.
In the absence of an iwi management plan, iwi may struggle to improve the effectiveness of their participation in RMA processes. In these cases, it is even more important to have robust participation processes for resource consent applications, policy review applications, articulate policy documents, and skilled and experienced implementation staff.
Whilst identification of specific iwi and hapū representative groups in several regional policy statements is a proactive and positive method of informing readers of who are the tāngata whenua and Māori representative bodies, identification may not be responsive to socio-political changes in Māori communities, particularly if changes to the statement or plan are required.
Since many of the RPSs and RPs were prepared there have been changes to the RMA 1991 that facilitate the provision of contact details of iwi authorities by Te Puni Kōkiri. The Kahui Mangai website is an example of this. It is unclear whether this has been useful to regional councils and iwi alike.
There appears to be a trend of good engagement as a result of councils encouraging Māori participation, improving the capability and capacity of iwi, and maintaining relationships between iwi and councils.
Where there are a large number of iwi and hapū interests within a region, regional policy statements and plans will need to articulate the diverse range of views and issues of various tāngata whenua. This is particularly prevalent in the North Island. The approach developed by Environment Waikato as part of their long-term council community plan is a model worthy of mention and consideration by other councils.
The broad-brush approach to Māori issues, objectives, policies and methods, lends itself to a higher level of reliance on the individual discretion of planning staff. This approach has the potential of creating significant gaps or inconsistencies in implementation.
Regions with one or two iwi have greater opportunities to facilitate one voice in the plan of policy statement. This means there may be more scope for improving capacity to increase input into plan of policy statement development.
A number of respondents have identified the role of governance (councillors) of regional councils as most important when prioritising projects, giving commitments to relationships and levels of resources. Buy-in at the governance table will enable more effective relationships and participation to occur.
As part of this review a number of key elements were identified in developing good RPSs and RPs that address Māori participation in freshwater management. These included:
The following iwi planning documents were identified as best practice examples:
The Cultural Health Index stands out as a freshwater monitoring tool. It has been developed by Māori for Māori.
As part of this review, a number of key elements were identified in developing good relationships between councils and iwi. These were:
Statutory acknowledgements stood out as a potential best practice tool of recognising Māori in freshwater management. The link to the Treaty of Waitangi claims and negotiation process is seen by the reviewers as a positive way of meeting expectations of Māori. These should be supported as a means of recognising Māori role in the management of freshwater resources, particularly water bodies. This tool is however reliant on iwi having access to and undertaking the lengthy process of, settlement. There needs to be some serious thought into providing a process or mechanism for iwi who have either, settled prior to statutory acknowledgements being developed or those iwi who may not settle in the foreseeable future. This may be via a national framework for recognising significant water bodies to iwi or classifying water as was the case under schedule 7 of the RMA 1991.
One of the obvious gaps in the review is the lack of any tools for regular monitoring of the effectiveness of plans, including Māori participation in freshwater management.
Related to this previous point, there are no obvious indicators identified in the plans or policy statements for Māori cultural characteristics of water bodies, wāhi tapu, wahi taonga, mahinga kai and mauri. There is potential to integrate the Cultural Health Index indicators into second generation plans. Furthermore, whilst all RPSs, RPs, LTCCPs and iwi management plans mention relationships, this is difficult to monitor and measure. There is potential to develop some qualitative measures eg, reporting on ‘iwi satisfaction’. In contrast, there are a number of scientific measures used for allocation and water quality in the various regional plans.
National policy statements and national environmental standards on water are currently being developed. Whilst not mentioned directly in the interviews, it is understood this is a significant issue for Māori. There are potential opportunities to conduct further work on Māori standards for water and the values associated with this resource.
The LTCCP process and, in particular, the development of community outcomes are opportunities for articulating a tāngata whenua vision for freshwater resources and how they may be provided for in statutory documents such as the RPS, RP and iwi planning documents.
Recent iwi planning documents are more focused and are articulate with regard to freshwater issues. Examples include:
It is reasonable to expect that the quality of iwi planning documents is improving and statutory bodies and agencies should support this as a matter of priority through provision of technical expertise and resourcing.
In almost every RPS, RP, LTCCP and iwi planning document, there was mention of education. Whilst education was identified more often than any other method, there was seldom any articulation of what education actually was. The few examples given include iwi wānanga, training and provision of information. This is certainly an area for further investigation to identify appropriate education resources that would assist Māori participation in freshwater management.
This review, like many before it, has identified capacity and capability as a significant barrier to Māori participating in decision-making processes. The area of freshwater management is one of a number of areas iwi authorities work in, and, as such, it would be appropriate to develop strategies to improve participation for Māori in resource management generally. The development of a national framework to achieve or facilitate this is certainly long overdue.
From the research conducted, the following options have been identified for central government, local government and Māori to work towards improving Māori participation in freshwater management.