The country’s waterways have been a bone of contention between the Crown and the Iwi Chairs Forum sparking robust debate over ownership and mana.

However, the government has a new plan to work together with iwi through the establishment of a brand new Māori Freshwater Forum. 

Minister of Māori Development, Nanaia Mahuta, says the Government wants to reach out to the Iwi Chairs Forum to talk fresh water through this new forum. 

“He wā tēnei kia toro atu te ringa, kia waihotia he wāhanga kia wānanga te kaupapa mō te wai, te mana o te wai, te mauri o te wai arā ngā whakahaeretanga ki ngā wai.”

The Iwi Chair Forum's technical advisor for natural resources and environmental expert Tina Porou says the Iwi Chairs Forum can work with the government.

“Very keen to re-engage with the Crown on matters of right and interests with freshwater. I think, too, they're very clear that this is not the only avenue to have that discussion.”

Porou says the Iwi Chairs Forum should not be seen as an advisory committee of sorts. 

“A real focus on making sure that it's a partnership approach - that it's not an advisory committee - that there is real teeth to the group and making sure that the scope really covers what iwi, hapū and whānau want to talk about.”

Mahuta says the Government is dipping their toes into new territory. 

“He wāhanga hōu me kī, mā te kāwanatanga kia kuhu ki roto i tēnei kaupapa nui, kia āta whai i tētahi huarahi kia whakamahia ā mātou nei whakaaro ki ngā awa katoa, ā tātou nei wai.”

However, because this is new territory, Porou expresses there are feelings of reservation.

“We're just a little cautious making sure that this group will give effect to some of the rights and interests of, not only the iwi collective, but individual iwi, hapū and whānau who've been working on solutions to freshwater issues for the last 180 years.”

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