Iwi body seeks to empower

By Laurel Stowell

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Nga Tangata Tiaki o Whanganui (from left) Keria Ponga, Susan Osborne, Gerrard Albert, Chris Kumeroa and Miriama Cribb. Absent are Rawiri Tinirau and Reneti (Ned) Tapa. PHOTO/ STUART MUNRO
Nga Tangata Tiaki o Whanganui (from left) Keria Ponga, Susan Osborne, Gerrard Albert, Chris Kumeroa and Miriama Cribb. Absent are Rawiri Tinirau and Reneti (Ned) Tapa. PHOTO/ STUART MUNRO

The first years of Nga Tangata Tiaki o Whanganui will be taken up with increasing understanding of the unique aspects of the Whanganui River Settlement, chairman Gerrard Albert says.

The settlement, signed at Ranana Marae on August 5 2014, makes the river a single physical and spiritual entity, including all its tributaries. It gives the river legal personhood and binds it to its peoples, who are responsible for its health and wellbeing.

Nga Tangata Tiaki o Whanganui (NTT) is the post settlement Whanganui River governance entity. Its job is to implement the settlement and manage the settlement money for the benefit of the people and the river. Mr Albert said it was not looking to take anything over.

"We really exist to empower our people, not to replace them."

Everyone has to be involved and understand the far-reaching settlement - and Mr Albert said that could take some time. NTT was not going to "charge in" with actions before that happened.

"We would love to have people out there monitoring, and we will. We would love to have discussions with councils about planning and resource consents, and we will," he said.

Full understanding had to come first. The rest he's calling just the mechanics of the settlement.

The initial NTT trustees were himself, John Maihi, Ken Mair, Nancy Tuaine and Te Tiwha Brendon Puketapu. NTT received $16 million of financial redress on the settlement signing in 2014, and a further $64 million after the first reading in May this year.

After the signing seven trustees were chosen, most of them in an election process by the 9342 registered Whanganui Iwi.

The new trustees are Mr Albert (chairman), Rawiri Tinirau (deputy chairman) and Susan Osborne, Reneti (Ned) Tapa, Keria Ponga, Chris Kumeroa and Miriama Cribb.

Their induction process included two days spent with Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu, to learn about governance and operations.

Their term lasts three years, with a new selection process in 2018.

The group rents space in the Whanganui River Maori Trust Board-owned building at 357 Victoria Ave. It employs five staff, who include Hayden Turoa and Javell Pereka. It's looking for three more staff, including a chief executive.

NTT will take over the functions of three current iwi bodies when legislation is passed in the first quarter of 2017. They are the Pakaitore Trust, which owns the Whanganui Courthouse and its site, and the Te Whiringa Muka Trust, which gets income from the Whanganui share of Maori fisheries.

The third is the Whanganui River Maori Trust Board. Its assets include 357 Victoria Ave and the two houses behind it, and the trust board's former premises in Taupo Quay.

NTT will eventually have two subsidiary trusts and an asset holding company working under it. These will be the Whanganui Iwi Fisheries Trust Ltd and Te Ngakinga o Whanganui Investment Trust plus a yet-to-be-named iwi development trust.

When Whanganui's land settlements are completed there will be another four post-settlement governance bodies.

"We hope every land settlement group will take greater responsibility for their part of the river," Mr Albert said.

NTT had its second annual general meeting at Ranana Marae in September, and published a 27-page annual report. It has a five-year strategic plan, agreed in February and March this year.

The second reading of the Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Bill takes place at Parliament on December 7. The third reading is expected early next year.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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