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Indigenous challenges to enhance freshwater governance and management in Aotearoa New Zealand - the Waikato river settlement

Co-management of environmental resources is an idea that has been developing for some time in Aotearoa New Zealand as a strategy that recognises Indigenous interests in the environment, and the different ways that people view the world. The contest for control of New Zealand's rivers has generally arisen from successive governments purporting to secure rights based upon English common law. Precepts of that law were completely foreign to the Indigenous Maori who had their own conceptions of rivers. Through the eyes of the Maori, rivers have their own life force, their own spiritual energy and their own powerful identities. Rivers are inextricably linked to tribal identities. Over time a raft of policies was employed and legislation passed by parliament in the name of development and the national interest which did not take into account Maori understandings of the river and its ecosystems, nor their rights, interests, or authority. Excluded from decision-making processes, Maori have long brought matters to the attention of courts by using any basis to assert our rights and interests, and to have our concerns about the deteriorating health and wellbeing of our rivers taken seriously. The search for redress has been relentless. The Resource Management Act 1991 formalised a range of legal rights, but such rights can be meaningless if presented as just one of many other considerations that decision-makers have to take into account. This article explores the notion of collaborative management and the development of co-management models as a background to the emergent Waikato River settlement ± a legal solution embedded in the Waikato-Tainui Raupatu Claims (Waikato River) Settlement Act 2010 that generates a more robust opportunity to bring to an end a paradigm of exclusion and usher in a new era that promises enhanced governance and management of a significant waterway.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
Te Aho, L. (2010). Indigenous challenges to enhance freshwater governance and management in Aotearoa New Zealand - the Waikato river settlement. The Journal of Water Law, 20(5), 285-292.
Lawtext Publishing Limited
This article has been published in the journal: The Journal of Water Law. Used with permission.