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Historic Waikato River settlement enacted

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
King Tuheitia and Koro Wetere. Pic: NZPA
King Tuheitia and Koro Wetere. Pic: NZPA

Wellington, May 6 NZPA - Tainui and the Crown will jointly govern, restore and protect the Waikato River under the terms of a Treaty of Waitangi settlement enacted by Parliament today.

The public galleries were packed with iwi members and the Maori King, Tuheitia Paki, was seated beside Speaker Lockwood Smith as the Waikato-Tainui Raupatu Claims (Waikato River) Settlement Bill was passed on a voice vote.

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson said in a statement after the vote the co-governance marked a new era in the relationship between Waikato-Taunui and the Crown.

"The search for justice by Waikato-Tainui has been a long one. Settlement of the Waikato River claim with its positive and clear focus on the future of this major natural resource is a major shift that is cause for considerable optimism not only for the Crown and Waikato-Tainui but for the region's community as a whole," he said.

The legislation provides for a $210 million clean-up fund for the river over the next 30 years.

It will establish the Waikato River Authority, comprising equal numbers of Crown and iwi-appointed members, which will be responsible for monitoring and guiding the implementation of the direction-setting document Te Ture Whaimana, the Vision and Strategy.

The bill includes joint management agreements between Waikato-Tainui and local authorities, participation in river-related resource consent decisions, recognition of a Waikato-Tainui environmental plan and provision for regulations covering conservation issues.

Most MPs who spoke during the third reading debate on the bill praised the terms of the settlement but the ACT Party opposed it.

MP David Garrett said Waikato-Tainui was effectively being granted veto power over anything that might have an impact on the river.

"Many New Zealanders, regardless of their race, have an affinity with the Waikato River," he said.

"We don't have to be Maori to feel a connection ... but this bill says our connection doesn't matter, 170 years on from the treaty signing we are further away from being one people than ever."

Mr Garrett said the problem with the bill, and other similar bills, was that they encouraged Maori to look backwards and dwell on grievances.

"We believe we are heading further down a very dangerous road and the ACT Party is unashamed to oppose this bill," he said.

There will be a ceremony tomorrow when the Governor-General signs the bill into law.

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