Iwi reps pull the pin on West Coast Conservation Board

6:12 pm on 25 February 2020

The West Coast Tai Poutini Conservation Board has cancelled its scheduled next meeting at short notice - for the first time in memory.

The board was due to hold its bi-monthly meeting on Wednesday at Fox Glacier.

But members found out only yesterday that the Department of Conservation (DOC), which supports the board with travel and accommodation costs, had called it off.

Chairman Keith Morfett told the Greymouth Star yesterday he was unable to comment on the reasons.

But Te Runanga o Ngati Waewae chairman Francois Tumahai, who holds a community seat on the board, revealed today that Ngāi Tahu had pulled the pin on the meeting.

The Ngāi Tahu seats are held by Veronica Baldwin and Kara Edwards, of Makaawhio.

Tumahai said he and the Ngāi Tahu reps were increasingly uncomfortable in board meetings, and felt the board was setting the Conservation Act above Treaty of Waitangi principles.

"We wrote to the Minister of Conservation last Friday and told her we want a meeting about this. This board - or at least a couple of members including the chair - don't have respect for the Treaty.

"It started last year when the chair didn't see the need to start meetings with a karakia, and then they weren't comfortable having meetings on the marae," he said.

"We have told the minister Ngāi Tahu are pulling out of the board until a few things are sorted out, and asked her to put board meetings on hold till it's resolved."

Morfett could not be reached for comment this morning.

Tumahai said iwi had an excellent relationship with DOC on the West Coast, and Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage had been very good in engaging with tangata whenua.

"But the conservation board's being dictated to by lobby groups like Forest and Bird and we won't be back till that's sorted."

He fired a broadside at a Forest and Bird speaker at the board's last meeting, over their call to firm up protection of the Waitaha River.

West Coast iwi had strongly supported Westpower's proposal for a hydro-electric power station on the Waitaha River, a plan Environment Minister David Parker had rejected because of the impact on wilderness values.

no metadata

Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest news service supported by RNZ, the Newspaper Publishers' Association and NZ On Air.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs