Iwi anger as axe falls on Rena roles

By Sandra Conchie of the Bay of Plenty Times -
The Smit Borneo working at the site of the Rena grounding. Photo / APN
The Smit Borneo working at the site of the Rena grounding. Photo / APN

Local iwi are dismayed three Rena recovery iwi liaison roles have been scrapped and claim the move came without warning.

The roles were disestablished this year as part of the central government's decision to reduce the overall resources allocated to the Rena Long-Term Environmental Recovery Plan.

Iwi and local authorities agreed to work together under the plan to restore affected beaches, seabeds, waterways, and fisheries to their pre-Rena disaster state.

Rena Recovery manager Bruce Fraser said late last year a review of the long-term recovery plan was undertaken to look at resources, including staffing.

Mr Fraser said the review process was undertaken in consultation with a number of different people including iwi, and as a result the decision was made to reduce staffing levels.

The results went before the governance group which is chaired by the Environment Minister, at a meeting in March, and the steering group at an April meeting.

Both groups signed off on a decision to reduce resourcing levels, he said.

Mr Fraser said while iwi liaison roles had been disestablished there was still iwi representatives on the governance group, which met once a year, and the steering group. He was also required to keep in regular contact with iwi.

"I can understand local iwi reaction but there was a consultation process followed and under the review there were a number of changes, including my role and hours being reduced."

Te Moana A Toi Iwi Leaders Forum representatives are drafting a letter to Environment Minister Amy Adams outlining their concerns.

Forum chairman Te Awanui Black, who also co-chairs the governance group, said the decision to disestablish the iwi liaison roles essentially came without warning.

Mr Black said the decision had taken away the infrastructure necessary to allow iwi to continue working towards the ultimate recovery goal.

"We are putting the Minister on notice that we want her and the government to hold to our original agreement, which was that iwi would be 100 per cent part of any Rena recovery movement, and not just expected to be watching from the sidelines," he said. "At the end of the day, like anything, if you want to fix something you have to be there and you can't fix something unless you are fully part of the plan."

Mr Black said he would have been happy to talk about a reduction in the iwi liaison positions but to scrap all the roles without warning was unfair.

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