Environment is priority: iwi

By Sam Hurley

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Local iwi gathered at the Matahiwi Marae, on the outskirts of Hastings, to discuss the proposed Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme, with some arguing the ecological and cultural impacts would outweigh any economic positives that would stem from the project.

Ngahiwi Tomoana from Ngati Kahungunu welcomed about 60 people who gathered at the marae and said although the iwi was not opposed to a water storage scheme it needed to be sustainable and not risk the marine environment. Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Inc chief executive Dr Adele Whyte said there would be potential employment opportunities to arise from the dam for mana whenua but the bigger picture should remain on the awa.

"We are aspirational that 25 per cent of jobs across all levels will employ tangata whenua," she said. "There are a number of tangata whenua overseas who are highly qualified that we will target to come back to work on a project at home."

However she said "the environmental impacts should be at the forefront of any project," and argued restoration and protecting the wellbeing of the Tukituki for future generations should be the priority.

One Bridge Pa resident said she wouldn't support a dam that would destroy the river system and feared intensive farming would suck the river dry in time.

"The rivers are used to serve the whole area and all the people, now they serve no one.

"The farmers up the river are taking it all for themselves, what about the people who live on the riverbanks."

Ngati Hawea hapu spokesperson Pohatu Paku said local government and their predecessors and processes had not been good stewards of taonga tuku iho.

"The Upokororo [fish species], is now extinct, what's next?

"Ngati Hawea has been asserting their voice through processes of submissions, advisory groups and committees, statutory committees, temporary advisers on resource consent for Napier City Council and Hastings District Council. "

He said Ngati Hawea proposed that advisers come directly to them to converse over historical, cultural and current issues which aren't effectively covered in the Cultural Impact Assessment of the Ruataniwha Water Scheme report.

"My intentions are to raise awareness within Maori community, specifically within hapu ... to include more than what the reports have suggested. In order to recognise tangibility of rights and interest that Maori have regarding lands, waterways and people and in the case specifically Tukituki River, we offer a way forward."

Meanwhile, Hawke's Bay Regional Council is to explore options to reduce the perceived conflict of interest by councillor directors on the council's investment company, HBRIC Ltd.

At yesterday's council meeting there was discussion on the perception of a possible conflict of interest for councillor directors being part of the HBRIC Ltd recommendation process around the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme and then taking part in HBRC decision-making process on whether to invest in the scheme.

Legal advice to council stated there did not appear to be any legal reasons to alter the current governance arrangements for the board of HBRIC Ltd to address conflict of interest and/or predetermination issues.

A further report on options to reduce the perception of conflict of interest by councillor directors, will be presented to the August Regional Council meeting.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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