Submitted 5 July 2016: Read the NZCA's submission on the Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Bill.

Submission date: 5 July 2016

Identification of submitter

The New Zealand Conservation Authority (NZCA) is a national statutory body established under the Conservation Act 1987. It has a major governance function in that it approves statements of general policy for national parks, conservation management strategies and national park management plans. It is also consulted by the Minister of Conservation and may advise the Minister on matters of national importance for conservation.

General statement

The NZCA is pleased to see the settlement of Whanganui iwi claims against the Crown embodied in the Bill. It has given consideration to the purpose of the Bill in which it has expertise owing to its understanding of the current statutory processes and the practices of the Department of Conservation.

This submission of the NZCA focuses upon this aspect. The bill creates a bold and innovative status for the Whanganui River and its tributaries, Te Awa Tupua. It recognises the intrinsic and spiritual values of the tangata whenua and this forms the basis for the legal definition of this river in law - as a legal person with its own personality and rights.  

Relationship with the Whanganui National Park

The NZCA approved the current management plan for the Whanganui National Park 2012-2022 in August 2012.   Although the main channel of the Whanganui River is not part of the Park, the Park and the whole river system are intimately connected. The bill is of great significance when considering the management of the Park.

Tupua te Kawa (natural law and value system of Te Awa Tupua) has four indigenous values that bind the people to the river and the river to the people.  These values will inform and strengthen the collaborative management of the National Park as a living cultural  landscape.  They will also be helpful to the Department of Conservation as it seeks to understand what the Whanganui iwi aspiration for a 'Māori National Park' means as a concept and how it may be applied.  This was raised and included in the National Park Management Plan revision.

NZCA in supporting this bill notes its consistency with the vision of the National Park Management Plan:

New Zealanders and visitors recognise, appreciate and care for the special values of the Whanganui National Park. They understand and embrace its unique history, and take pride in its international recognition as a living and iconic cultural landscape, which provides an unparalleled visitation experience.

The Park's forests and rivers provide the country's largest natural sanctuary for thriving populations of kiwi, whio (blue duck) and other previously threatened species.

Tāngata whenua values and tikanga are reflected in the way the Park is managed and presented. The Park is a flagship for successful collaborative conservation management in accordance with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

The NZCA supports the innovative legal framework embodied in this bill and believes it provides a significant platform for the further development of collaborative management of the National Park as a “living cultural landscape”.  It changes the legal and philosophical view of the river to be focussed on indigenous values. The NZCA endorse the comprehensive scope of the bill (i.e. ‘from the mountains to the sea, incorporating its tributaries and all its physical and metaphysical elements’) and guidance to decision makers with regard to the status and values of the Whanganui River.  The NZCA sees this collaborative framework as being consistent with the approach outlined for the development and management of the Park.

Background to the NZCA

The New Zealand Conservation Authority is established by the Conservation Act 1987, with members appointed by the Minister of Conservation. It has a range of functions, but primarily acts as an independent conservation advisor to the Minister and the Director-General. The Authority’s role has, in the past, been seen to be largely as a strategic advisor, but it has a growing role as an objective advocate on matters of national significance and interest in the conservation arena and, more recently, as a “board” to provide high quality independent advice to the Department of Conservation on its strategic direction and performance.

Current membership of the New Zealand Conservation Authority

In consultation with the Minister of Maori Affairs:

  • Waana Davis of Lower Hutt
  • Rauru Kirikiri of Wellington

In consultation with the Minister of Tourism:

  • Warren Parker of Rotorua
  • Mike Simm of Kerikeri

In consultation with the Minister of Local Government:

  • Jan Riddell of Winton

On the nomination of Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu:

  • Sandra Cook of Otautau and Christchurch

On the recommendation of Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand:

  • Gerry McSweeney of South Westland and Arthurs Pass

On the recommendation of Federated Mountain Clubs of New Zealand:

  • David Barnes of Dunedin

On the recommendation of the Royal Society of New Zealand:

  • Mick Clout of Auckland

From public nominations:

  • Devon McLean of Nelson
  • Jo Breese of Wellington
  • Judy Hellstrom of the Marlborough Sounds
  • Mark Christensen of Christchurch
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