Increasingly Treaty of Waitangi settlements are including a requirement to enter into co-governance arrangements. The Ngāti Hinerangi Claims Settlement Bill, which had its first reading in parliament on 19th September, is one such settlement. The Bill announces the intention to introduce a co-governance arrangement over the upper part of the Waihou and Piako river catchments areas.
The details are not available in the Bill, but co-governance commonly means that there are equal numbers of iwi representatives and council members involved. Therefore, power is shared equally between iwi representatives and the remaining approximately 84% of New Zealanders. How democratic is that? Additionally, they also often fall outside the usual democratic safeguards. Take for example the Waikato River Authority. According to a report released in 2016 by the Office of the Auditor-General.
“The Authority is a unique public entity. It is not subject to the Official Information Act 1982 or the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987. Trustees do not have to make minutes of their meetings public or publicise where meetings are held, and can hold meetings behind closed doors.”
Relationship Agreements - a further manifestation of the ‘partnership principle’
The Deed of Settlement also provides for Ngāti Hinerangi to enter into relationship agreements with the Department of Conservation and Ministry for the Environment. The relationship agreements will outline how these agencies will engage with the Ngāti Hinerangi governance entity. Additionally, the summary of the Deed of Settlement also states that a relationship agreement with the New Zealand Transport Agency will be developed outside of the Treaty settlement. This will outline how NZTA will interact with the Ngāti Hinerangi governance entity.
Relationship Agreements are high-level documents that formally acknowledge and identify the scope and extent of understandings and/or working relationships between a local body or a government entity and a specific tangata whenua group. They provide an opportunity for Māori to contribute to the decision-making processes.