The claims relate to use of the river and ownership of the riverbed, the latter of which has been thoroughly investigated, rejected, and brought back to life when claims back to 1840 were allowed. The signing took place at Ranana Marae, 60km up the river, on Tuesday, August 5.
The $80-million river claim redress is detailed in one deed titled Ruruku Whakatupua - Te Mana o Te Iwi o Whanganui. The $30-million for the Te Awa Tupua framework for the Wanganui River is detailed in another deed titled Ruruku Whakatupua - Te Mana o Te Awa Tupua
With a length of 290km, the Wanganui River is the country's third-longest river, flowing from Mount Tongariro to the coast at Wanganui. It is the country's longest navigable river.
The Te Mana o Te Iwi $80-million deed says the agreement seeks to settle complaints that go back to 1871, to an application for title to the foreshore and riverbed adjacent to several blocks at Putiki.
In late 1885 the Crown began clearing snags and rapids from the river to help establish a steamer service. Maori complained about the impact on eel and lamprey weirs and asked that river deepening work be stopped because they never agreed to it.
The Wanganui River Trust Act 1891 allowed the Wanganui River Trust Act to build jetties and charge tolls. The Wanganui River Trust Act Amendment Act 1893 included a provision by which Maori affected by the works could apply to the Native Land Court for compensation. Nevertheless, some continued to obstruct clearance works.
The Coal-mines Act Amendment Act 1903 provided that the beds of all navigable rivers “shall be deemed to have always been vested in the Crown”, and “declared that all minerals contained within those river beds belonged to the Crown”. Section 5 of the Wanganui River Trust Amendment Act 1920 empowered the Wanganui River Trust to extract and sell gravel from the Wanganui River.
Wanganui tribes took their riverbed claim to the Maori Land Court in 1938, and again in 1944 and 1945, and to the Supreme Court in 1949. A further petition and the appointment of a Royal Commission followed in 1950, with matters referred to the Court of Appeal in 1953, back to the Maori Appellate Court in 1958 and then again to the Court of Appeal which issued a final decision in 1962 rejecting the claim.
Tribes took legal proceedings in 1988, 1990, 1992, 2000, and between 2001 and 2010 over the Tongariro power scheme that was established in the 1960s “without reference to the Wanganui tribes”. The tribes reached an agreement with Genesis Energy in 2011.
They lodged a claim to the Waitangi Tribunal (Wai 167) in1990. The tribunal predictably found in favour of the claimants.
Noting that there are 143 known maraes along the river, the Te Mana o Te Iwi agreement includes: Hapu – Ngati Haua, Ngati Patutokotoko, Ngati Kura, Ngati Hau, Ngati Ruaka, Ngati Poutama, Ngati Pamoana, Ngati Tuera, Ngati Paerangi, Ngati Tupoho, Ngati Rangi and Ngati Uenuku; and tupuna rohe – Hinengakau, Tamaupoko, Tupoho, Tamahaki, and Uenuku; but excludes Ngati Tuwharetoa, Ngati Maniapoto, Ngati Rereahu, Ngati Maru, Ngati Ruanui, Nga Rauru Kitahi, and Ngati Apa.
This is an agreement in which primal religion, in which plants, trees, animals, hills and valleys, waterways, lakes, and even rocks, are experienced as spiritual beings in their own right, will be written into New Zealand law. In primal religion, each particular place has its own spirit.
The settlement deed holds that the Wanganui River, which is referred to as Te Awa Tupua, is an integrated indivisible entity in both biophysical and metaphysical terms, and the health and wellbeing of the river is intrinsically interconnected with the health and wellbeing of the people.
The agreement notes that there are more than 240 identified ripo (rapids) on the Wanganui River between Taumarunui and the mouth of the River.
Whanganui pū hold that each ripo of the Whanganui River is inhabited by a kaitiaki (spiritual guardian), which is particular to each pū. Each of these kaitiaki is a mouri and is responsible for maintaining the lifeforce and therefore the health and wellbeing of the Whanganui River and its people. Each pū and the whanau within that pū are responsible collectively for maintaining the mouri of the ripo and, in so doing, the collective mouri of Te Awa Tupua.In the $30-million Te Mana o Te Awa Tupua agreement, a new legal entity named Te Pou Tupua will be the tax-exempt governance entity for the Wanganui River. Situated midway between the Crown and the tribes, one person will be nominated by iwi with interests in the Whanganui River and one person will be nominated by the Crown, although the Crown alone will fund it with $200,000 a year for 20 years.
These kaitiaki of the ripo provide insight, guidance and premonition in relation to matters affecting the Wanganui River, its resources and life in general. Whanganui iwi and the pū and whanau of Whanganui look to these kaitiaki for guidance in times of joy, despair or uncertainty, for the guidance and insight they can provide. 8.1, p50
A strategy group named Te Kopuka comprising 17 members -- one from Nga Tangata Tiaki o Whanganui, five from Wanganui River tribes, four from relevant local authorities, one from Fish and Game, Conservation, Genesis Energy, representing environmental and conservation interests, tourism, recreational interests, and the primary sector respectively.
On the commencement date the Crown will pay $30-million to Te Awa Tupua to establish Te Korotete o Te Awa Tupua, and create a fund that iwi and hapu with interests in the Wanganui River may apply for.
Fish habitat management and customary food gathering is mentioned but the deed has nothing to do with water quality.
Crown-owned parts of the bed of the Wanganui River will vest in Te Awa Tupua. The vesting of the Crown-owned parts of the bed of the Wanganui River in Te Awa Tupua under clause does not create or transfer a proprietary interest in water.
If Te Awa Tupua faces a potential liability as landowner, the Crown may bail it out. No person may use in public the name “Te Awa Tupua” in an offensive or derogatory manner.
A weak fawning government handing over so much ($80-million) for so little (eel weirs removed and 25 years trying to claim the riverbed) will only sharpen the appetite of Wanganui claimants for more.
And placing resources in a midway position between the Crown and Maori, as has happened with the marine and coastal area and the Urewera park, means that it is just a matter of time that those resources will go the way of forestry rentals in the Crown Forestry Rental Trust, where incremental changes by the trust tilted control of assets from both Crown and Maori to Maori – the Wanganui River, both bed and water, is likely to come under total Maori ownership.
Ruruku Whakatupua - Te Mana o Te Iwi o Whanganui, http://nz01.terabyte.co.nz/ots/DocumentLibrary/RurukuWhakatupua-TeManaoTeIwioWhanganui.pdf
Ruruku Whakatupua - Te Mana o Te Awa Tupua, http://nz01.terabyte.co.nz/ots/DocumentLibrary/RurukuWhakatupua-TeManaoTeAwaTupua.pdf