Friday, 24 March 2017

Te Awa Tupua also known as the Whanganui River recognised as a living being by New Zealand

Photograph by Janette Asche

On 15 March 2017 the longest navigable river in New Zealand, Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui), was granted full rights as "an indivisible and living whole" (a living person) under the Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) 2016 and will be represented by two officials, one from the Whanganui iwi and the other from the Crown.

According to The Whanganui Chronicle the settlement included $80m in financial redress, $30m towards a contestable fund to improve the health of the river, $1m to establish the legal framework for the river and brings to closure the longest-running litigation in New Zealand history to an end – the Whanganui iwi having fought for recognition of relationship with the river since the 1870s.

Summary of settlement

Ruruku Whakatupua provides for the full and final settlement of all historical Treaty of Waitangi claims of Whanganui Iwi in relation to the River that arise from Crown acts or omissions before 21 September 1992.

Ruruku Whakatupua has the following 2 parts:
*Ruruku Whakatupua—Te Mana o Te Awa Tupua; and
*Ruruku Whakatupua—Te Mana o Te Iwi o Whanganui.

Te Mana o Te Awa Tupua

Ruruku Whakatupua—Te Mana o Te Awa Tupua is primarily directed towards the establishment of Te Pā Auroa, a new legal framework, which is centred on the legal recognition of Te Awa Tupua, comprising the River from the mountains to the sea, its tributaries, and all its physical and metaphysical elements, as an indivisible and living whole.

Te Pā Auroa comprises the following 7 principal elements:
*legal recognition of the Whanganui River as Te Awa Tupua and of Te Awa Tupua as a legal person (together, the Status); and
*Tupua te Kawa (Te Awa Tupua Values); and
*Te Pou Tupua, consisting of 2 persons, one appointed by the Crown and the other by iwi with interests in the Whanganui River, to a guardianship role to act on behalf of Te Awa Tupua; and
*Te Heke Ngahuru ki Te Awa Tupua, the River strategy; and
*Te Kōpuka nā Te Awa Tupua, the River Strategy Group responsible for developing the River strategy; and
*vesting of the Crown-owned parts of the bed of the Whanganui River in Te Awa Tupua; and
*Te Korotete o Te Awa Tupua, the Te Awa Tupua Fund. a $30 million contestable fund, the Te Awa Tupua fund.

The settlement provides that Te Pā Auroa is a relevant consideration for any person making statutory decisions relating to the Whanganui River or activities in the catchment affecting the River. Te Pā Auroa also contains legal weighting provisions that specify how decision makers will be required to "recognise and provide for" the Status and Values and "have particular regard to" the River Strategy when exercising and performing functions, powers, and duties under legislation listed in the Bill.

Other Te Awa Tupua arrangements

In addition to the key elements of Te Pā Auroa outlined above, it also provides for—
*the protection of the name Te Awa Tupua against unauthorised commercial exploitation; and
*establishment of the Te Awa Tupua register, maintained by Te Pou Tupua, of hearing commissioners who may be nominated for the register by Whanganui Iwi. Local authorities must consult the register when considering appointments to hear certain resource consent applications relating to the Whanganui River; and
*a collaborative process to identify how to improve the regulation of activities on the surface of the River, involving iwi with interests in the Whanganui River, Maritime New Zealand, and central and local government; and
*establishment of a fisheries co-ordination group (involving iwi with interests in the Whanganui River, the New Zealand Fish and Game Council, and central and local government) to advance the protection, management, and sustainable use of freshwater fisheries in the catchment; and
*a collaborative process to explore the development of a regulatory mechanism to provide for customary food gathering, involving iwi with interests in the Whanganui River and the Ministry for Primary Industries; and
*interim custodian arrangements instead of those that apply under section 11 of the Protected Objects Act 1975, giving Te Awa Tupua interim custody of taonga tūturu found in the Whanganui River.
To support Te Pā Auroa, the Crown will pay—
*$30 million to Te Awa Tupua for the establishment of Te Korotete o Te Awa Tupua, the Te Awa Tupua Fund; and
*$200,000 per year for 20 years as a contribution to the costs associated with the exercise of its functions by Te Pou Tupua; and
*$430,000 to the Manawatu-Wanganui Regional Council for the development of the River Strategy.

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