Another missed opportunity – Our Freshwater 2020

23 April 2020

The release of the Ministry for the Environment’s and Statistics New Zealand’s ‘Our Freshwater 2020’ report came as a surprise to Iwi and Hapū in Aotearoa, as well as dedicated Māori representative organisations such as Te Wai Māori. “I’m not sure how, you can produce a report named ‘Our Freshwater 2020’ and not consult with Iwi, Hapū and dedicated Māori organisations on its creation.” said Chair of Te Wai Māori, Lisa te Heuheu.

The Ministry commented that the report was developed with a panel of independent scientists and mātauranga experts – but that wider consultation was not sought after in order to keep the report ‘independent’. “Simply put, in this day in age – that is not good enough. You must consult on the mauri of our wai with Iwi and Hapū, as well as dedicated Trusts such as ourselves. We believe that our knowledge, relationships and current work programmes would have provided beneficial data for both Statistics New Zealand and the Ministry for the Environment.” says Lisa te Heuheu.

The report itself notes that a key knowledge gap is understanding how the Crown will develop and incorporate a fully integrated Te Ao Māori view into environmental reporting. “These information gaps identified in the report should be a future opportunity for Māori and Government agencies to jointly address.” Lisa te Heuheu noted.

“Time and time again we have seen inconsistency in the Government’s approach to engaging with Iwi, Hapū and ourselves. There are previous reports that we know have been done around establishing appropriate Te Ao Māori frameworks in regard to environmental reporting, such as the 2016 report by Manaaki Whenua, commissioned by the Ministry for the Environment, but these frameworks haven’t been established. There are values and concepts and monitoring currently being done by Iwi and Hapū that isn’t represented here. These are the future frameworks we want to see following on from this report, it shouldn’t just be an information gap”.

The report highlights critical issues such as the vulnerability of freshwater ecosystems, and the effects of climate change on freshwater, which are issues constantly front of mind for tangata whenua. The report uses īnanga as a case study, a taonga species which will be affected by all of the pressures noted in the report, including water quality, and climate change. These are key focus areas of the Trust’s work programme, and there could have been valuable engagement on what work is being undertaken in these areas, and to identify knowledge gaps to be addressed.

These are not new issues. Tangata whenua consider that it is imperative that mātauranga, traditional knowledge observed over generations, should be given primary consideration when it comes to understanding the interactions and relationships of people with the natural world.

Te Wai Māori Trust will seek to work with the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand on future environmental reporting and continue to advocate for Māori on key documents and Government policy to ensure that our voice is heard.

Te Wai Māori Trust

Te Wai Māori Trust works on behalf of all Iwi to advance the interests of New Zealand’s indigenous freshwater fisheries species and advises Iwi and the Government on freshwater fisheries matters.

The Trust undertakes research and provides funding and support to Iwi, hapū and whānau undertaking research into freshwater fisheries and habitat restoration.

The Directors are Lisa Te Heuheu, Miria Pomare, Pahia Turia, Donna Flavell and Ian Ruru.

Te Wai Maori Trust was established under the Maori Fisheries Act 2004 to advance the interests of Maori in freshwater fisheries.