< December 2021 newsletter


THE ROLE OF TE MANA O TE WAI IN WATER SERVICES ENTITIES

All Water Services Entities will be required to give effect to Te Mana o Te Wai. Three of its six principles will encompass all aspects of the water delivery system - specifically Mana whakahaere, Kaitiakitanga, and Manaakitanga. These principles are to be defined by tangata whenua.

What is Te Mana o te Wai?

Te Mana o te Wai, (which translates as the mana or power of water), refers to the vital importance of water. It was initially introduced in 2014 but strengthened in 2020 to provide “stronger direction” on how it must be applied. 

Te Mana o te Wai is the all-encompassing concept driving the countrywide management of our freshwater and is integral to all the Government’s water-related policies, regulations, and laws. It covers all regional councils and their planning and implementation, and the future Three Water entities.

Te Mana o te Wai delivers multi-level Māori involvement and directs all persons, functions, powers, and duties relating to our water, whether in the environment or our infrastructure, no matter what additional race-based requirements are legislated for. 

WHAT IT MEANS

A. The Hierarchy of Obligations

Te Mana o te Wai has the following priorities: 

  • health and well-being of water; 
  • the health needs of people as in drinking water; and
  • the ability of people and communities to provide for their social, economic, and cultural well-being. 

B. The Six Principles of Te Mana o te Wai
These principles inform the implementation of Te Mana o te Wai, as they are explained by Government. The first three principles listed below seem sensible and reasonable.

    1. Governance: the responsibility of those with authority for making decisions about freshwater to do so in a way that prioritises the health and well-being of freshwater now and into the future.
    2. Stewardship: the obligation of all New Zealanders to manage freshwater in a way that ensures it sustains present and future generations.
    3. Care and respect: the responsibility of all New Zealanders to care for freshwater in providing for the health of the nation.

      However, the other three give Māori representatives significant, open-ended power with no strict definitions, no boundaries, limits, or any other democratic safeguards:
    4. Mana whakahaere: the power, authority, and obligations of tangata whenua to make decisions that maintain, protect, and sustain the health and well-being of, and their relationship with, freshwater.
    5. Kaitiakitanga: the obligation of tangata whenua to preserve, restore, enhance, and sustainably use freshwater for the benefit of present and future generations.
    6. Manaakitanga: the process by which tangata whenua show respect, generosity, and care for freshwater and for others. 

C. Ever-changing definition
The explanation of Te Mana o te Wai is set out in the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 (NPFSM) under section 52 of the Resource Management Act 1991, “or in any future statement issued under that section that amends or replaces the 2020 statement”.
So, we can expect the concept and its application to evolve further.

Illustration showing where Te Mana o te Wai fits into the WSE scheme.

(Taumata Arowai and Three Waters Reform Programme iwi/Māori hui a motu A3 (PDF, 6MB). The document can be found on the DIA website HERE).

POWER OVER LOCAL AUTHORITIES 

Under the NPFSM, Te Mana o te Wai affects how local authorities manage freshwater, and directs other New Zealanders through regional and district plans and policy statements. 

  1. Involvement in Planning & Implementation
    Regional Councils must give effect to the obligations and principles of ‘Te Mana o te Wai’, “to the extent they (local Maori leaders) wish to be involved”, in the development of a long-term vision for and management of freshwater (including the decision-making processes). This involves the application of mana/tangata whenua’s values and knowledge (matauranga Maori), understanding of the waterbodies’ history, and their aspirations for the future.
  2. Transfer of Power to Tangata Whenua
    Local authorities are obliged to involve tangata whenua in decision-making, monitoring, preparation of policy statements and plans. They must also ‘investigate’ divesting their governance authority to ‘tangata whenua’ by joint management and/or a transfer of powers.
  3. Integrated Management
    Local authorities must integrate freshwater management with a mountain-to-the-sea perspective on land use to avoid adverse (cumulative) effects on freshwater environments. Consequently, this has the potential to affect many/all landowners and all resource consent applications.
  4. Reporting on Progress
    Regional authorities must report on progress towards the long-term vision and on decisions around tangata whenua involvement (such as joint management agreements).

There is the danger that other New Zealanders (and possibly even proven, facts-based science) may be ignored while unelected, unaccountable, unchallengeable ‘tangata whenua’, ‘Maori Advisory Group’ or similar are given statutory power over local authorities, obliging them −

  1. To “interpret and give effect to Te Mana o te Wai” (which as previously noted is unrestricted in its interpretation); and “how to enable matauranga Maori, tikanga Maori, and kaitiakitanga to be exercised”.
  2. To  identify matters of importance, how Te Mana o te Wai will be applied locally, and the outcomes required for waterbodies; 
  3. To enable (Maori) to apply different systems of knowledge for freshwater care and be involved in monitoring, and
  4. To implement the National Objectives Framework.

POWER OVER PRIVATE PROPERTY

In addition to C. Integrated Management, above, Compliance Officers working for Taumata Arowai – the Water Services Regulator have the power to enter any property without a search warrant if they “believe there’s a serious risk to public health”. Interestingly, the only exception is for maraes and related buildings, which are to be given “cultural consideration”.

POWER TO INTERRUPT SUPPLY 

The provision of water can be restricted or interrupted (for example, a rahui) if required for “cultural factors” affecting the source. This means that cultural or religious mores could override the proven science or filtration capabilities of a water supply and force it to be stopped. Therefore, it is possible that cultural and religious beliefs (without scientific substantiation) may be imposed on other New Zealanders who don’t share the same beliefs.

MAORI INVOLVEMENT TO BE FUNDED

All Māori involvement will be funded by water users/ratepayers. As explained under the Three Water’s plan, the Government requires:

  • “…iwi/Maori to be well supported to contribute to the new roles created through the reform process, …………….and exercising kaitiakitanga under the Te Mana o te Wai mechanisms”;
  • “… the entities and their boards will be required to give effect to Te Mana o te Wai, and understand, support and enable matauranga Maori and tikanga Maori and kaitiakitanga to be exercised throughout their organisations, and when engaging with iwi/Maori.”
  • The Ministry for the Environment also takes applications for grants under Te Mana o te Wai Fund and/or Te Patea o Te Mana o Te Wai (Water Authority Fund).

WHAT TE MANA O TE WAI MEANS FOR NEW ZEALANDERS

Common law demands that no one “owns” water as it is essential to all life. However, the Iwi Leaders’ Forum has been striving for ‘ownership’ for many years. Seemingly in support of that claim, the current Government, particularly the Minister of Local Government and Maori Development Nanaia Mahuta, has developed ways to indirectly achieve that end.

Good law is that which is well defined and certain, and which does not favour any one ethnicity over all others. Nowhere is this more important than when it comes to the provision and control of water – the essence of life. 

QUESTIONS YOU MIGHT LIKE TO PUT TO YOUR LOCAL REPRESENTATIVES:

  1. When did New Zealanders vote for a constitutional change away from democratic governance of the country, its people, and resources to co-governance with unelected, unaccountable, and unchallengeable tribal groups? 
  2. Where are the safeguards against conflicts of interest, abuse of power and blatant racism?
  3. How are our rights as New Zealand citizens to be protected against the statutory obligations under Te Mana o te Wai? 
  4. Where are the safeguards against –
    1. religious or cultural beliefs negating proven science, 
    2. abuses of power,
    3. conflicts of interest, or 
    4. inappropriate allocations of taxpayer funds?

References

Go back to the December 2021 newsletter


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