Rotorua iwi and council in new partnership

8:35 pm on 18 December 2015

Local iwi are being given the right to vote in committee meetings at the Rotorua Lakes Council.

Steve Chadwick.

Steve Chadwick. Photo: LABOUR PARTY

The council has entered into a new partnership with Te Arawa which will see iwi more involved in decision making.

Today, it launched a new iwi partnership board, Te Tatau o Te Arawa.

It is what Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said she has wanted since her first day on the job, two years ago.

"I signalled at Tamatekapua when I became the mayor that we would start to work on a partnership approach. It is a wonderful day for Te Arawa and what is good for Te Arawa is good for the community of Rotorua," she said.

Te Tatau o Te Arawa has appointed two iwi representatives who will sit on each of the council's two committees and a fifth member who will vote on Resource Management Act policy.

The new model replaces the Te Arawa Standing Committee which was established over 20 years ago.

Councillor Merepeka Raukawa-Tait said the old committee could make recommendations to the council but the new board had a seat at the table.

"The committee was to the side and now they are right in there with us, side by side, shoulder to shoulder, making decisions that are going to impact on the city of Rotorua."

Ms Raukawa-Tait said there were big decisions to be made about Te Arawa resources including the geothermal fields and lakes.

She said the iwi had sometimes felt wronged and had recently won cases against the council in the Environment Court, and it is better to have them at the decision-making table.

"If Te Arawa wins in the Environment Court then it costs every ratepayer in Rotorua because we have to pay the cost and the decision is reversed. We have to put those plans aside and then go out again. It can run in to hundreds of thousands of dollars."

The 14 members of Te Tatau o Te Arawa have been chosen and include kaumatua [elders] and rangatahi [youth].

Chairman Te Taru White said the tribe was in it for the long-haul.

"It is a first step in a journey. Our view is that if we are smart enough and we are creative enough and we do our job well enough we can reposition ourselves in a stronger way moving forward."

Arapeta Tahana played a key role in designing the model and said it would be successful because both parties had the best intentions.

"It is a partnership formed on a desire to create a better city, on a genuine value for working together and acknowledging that despite our diversity and differences when we come together we can make a bigger difference for people around us. I think that is the element that would make the difference for this model."

Mr Tahana said it was the first partnership of its kind and other councils could and should learn from this approach.