Hawke's Bay Māori criticise controversial regional council plan change

10:58 am on 20 October 2020

Iwi and hapū in Hawke's Bay fear a new plan to sort out water flowing through the region's rivers will do nothing to address what they say is the abuse, neglect and greed of the region's water management.

Cordry Huata, chairman of Mangaroa Marae.

Cordry Huata, chairman of Mangaroa Marae. Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

The TANK plan change by the regional council aims to address how to manage four of the region's river catchments in the future and it's been in development for years.

One marae, Mangaroa Marae in Bridge Pā near Hastings, has made about 40 submissions against the plan.

Cordry Huata is chairman of the marae, which stands beside the Karewarewa stream.

That flows into the Karamū stream, which has some of the worst water quality in Hawke's Bay.

Huata said it had been a special place - where whānau often gathered to swim and catch kai.

"It was our waterlands, it was our waterworld, it was our swimming hole," he said.

"We've created this sort of environment where we want our kids and our whānau to experience the stuff that we experienced as kids. And this spot here, just this spot here, whānau carry out what we call tohi rights, where we bless our tamariki."

For Huata and others in the marae, they have watched the water quality degrade over many years, he said.

"Who we include our say in there? Someone else monitors it on our behalf but it still doesn't fix it. We have very little faith in the regional council to do their job well."

Managroa Marae at Bridge Pā.

Managroa Marae at Bridge Pā. Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

The plan aims to manage water quality and quantity for the Tūtaekuri, Ahuriri, Ngaruroro and Karamū catchments, that run through the Heretaunga plains.

Over 80 percent of Hawke's Bay residents live on and around the plains.

Huata said the plan ignores tino rangatiratanga, or self-determination or sovereignty, over taonga, like water.

Mangaroa Marae may have made the most submissions, but many other tangata whenua in Te Matau a Māui are also against the move.

The iwi, Ngāti Kahungunu, said the balance was not right - that the plan favoured economics over environmental and cultural values.

Chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana said as climate change became more common, there would have to be massive cutbacks in water use if the status quo continued.

"The biggest issues for us is the water retention over the next 100, 200, 500 years and the water intensification use is even going to be more impactful on our ground flows and our underground aquifers and we think we're at a pretty dangerous or pivotal spot."

Karewarewa stream flowing beside Mangaroa marae at Bridge Pā in Hawke's Bay.

Karewarewa stream flowing beside Mangaroa marae at Bridge Pā in Hawke's Bay. Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

He said many marae are speaking out because of spurts in agricultural use over summer, meaning many run out of water.

That would force them to take the town supply of chlorinated water, which was not preferred.

"We're getting all these double whammies around the rights to good water into our traditional communities, [it] has been damaged by all this mass horticultural, viticultural production around us."

The Hawke's Bay Regional Council said iwi had been consulted closely for eight years.

Its acting strategic planning group manager Ceri Edmonds said five independent commissioners, three of who are Māori, would hold hearings in May to decide what happens next.

"It will be every submitter's chance to be heard at the hearing, so those concerns of iwi will be presented by them to the hearings panel and they will consider the information before them," she said.

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