In the “Protecting New Zealand's Rivers

For Māori, water is the essence of all life, akin to the blood of Papatuanuuku (Earth mother) who supports all people, plants and wildlife. Māori assert their tribal identity in relation to rivers and particular waterways have a role in tribal creation stories. Rivers are valued as a source of mahinga kai, hāngi stones and cultural materials, as access routes and a means of travel, and for their proximity to important wāhi tapu, settlements or other historic sites.32 Indicators of the health of a river system (such as uncontaminated water and species gathered for food, continuity of flow from mountain source to the sea) can provide a tangible representation of its mauri.

The relationship between Māori, and their culture and traditions, and their ancestral lands, water, sites, wāhi tapu (sacred place) and other taonga is a matter of national importance under RMA section 6(e), which decision-makers must recognise and provide for. Giving effect to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi is a requirement of the Conservation Act 1987.33

Several notable Waitangi Tribunal claims, such as Whanganui and Waikato, have sought redress for Treaty breaches in relation to rivers. The Waikato-Tainui Raupatu Claims (Waikato River) Settlement Act 2010 provides redress through a new co-governance entity to oversee river management and give effect to a vision and strategy to protect the health and wellbeing of the river for present and future generations.


32 Te Runanga O Ngai Tahu (undated) “Freshwater Policy” available on www.ngaitahu.iwi.nz.

33 Section 4, Conservation Act 1987.

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