Our Horowhenua reporter Veronica Harrod asks: ‘Will the Government’s brand-new water policy now respond to a Waitangi Tribunal finding the Resource Management Act fails Maori?
She says the public wants to know whether the government’s policy includes a new governance model.
Last week a pre-publication Waitangi Tribunal version of a 598 page Stage 2 report on the ‘National Freshwater and geothermal resources claims’ (referred to as Wai 2358) said the Resource Management Act (RMA) is ‘virtually a dead letter in respect of mechanisms for tino rangatiratanga over freshwater bodies.
‘Last week a pre-publication version of a 598 page Stage 2 report on the ‘National Freshwater and geothermal resources claims’, referred to as Wai 2358, stated the Resource Management Act (RMA) is, “virtually a dead letter in respect of mechanisms for tino rangatiratanga over freshwater bodies.”
The report also says, “Many Crown documents have admitted that Māori participation in RMA processes is variable and sometimes non-existent.”
Maori have an ‘irreducible’ right
Claimants and interested parties say co-governance with Maori should be an “irreducible requirement” for freshwater resources.
“All of the claimants and interested parties were deeply concerned about the degraded state of many freshwater taonga.
“Many parties attributed the decline in water quality to systemic flaws in the RMA, and to the way in which economic, environmental, and Māori interests have been balanced in RMA decision-making,” the report said.
In a letter dated 23 August included in the report – and addressed to four government ministers – Waitangi Tribunal chair and presiding Chief Justice Isaac said, “Many Tribunal panels have already found the Resource Management Act 1991 to be in breach of the Treaty, including the Wai 262 Tribunal.
“But very few of the recommendations made in previous Tribunal reports have been implemented.”
Frequent calls for consideration of Iwi plans
He said frequent calls were made between 1998 and 2011 for iwi management plans to be given greater weight in freshwater management.
Yet, in 2011 the Wai 262 Tribunal found, ‘Nearly 20 years after the RMA was enacted, it is fair to say that the legislation has delivered Māori scarcely a shadow of its original promise.’
The Wai 262 Tribunal also found that Māori participation under the RMA, “was largely reduced to that of consultees and objectors.
“Why has the Crown not acted on these repeated calls to enhance the statutory weight and effectiveness of iwi management plans? We do not have a great deal of evidence on the point.
No guaranteed funding for Maori
“Claimant counsel submitted that the Crown’s ‘failure to confer any guaranteed funding to support the discharge by Māori of their statutorily recognised kaitiakitanga responsibilities’ or the ‘participation of Māori in local or regional planning processes’ was a crucial flaw in the RMA regime.”
The stage 2 report focuses on the government’s programme of RMA and freshwater management reforms. The report says geothermal issues, “would be dealt with at a later stage of the inquiry.”