Sieges are not new For Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei.
Before the coming of our now Pākeha neighbours, we were from time to time required to fend off the incursions by other iwi seeking to take the bounty of our lands from us. Seeking to take away the taonga that is Tamaki Makaurau.
Then following the arrival of the Pākeha, invited to share parts of our lands by my ancestor rangatira Apihai Te Kawau, my people learned a new kind of slow unceasing siege that would eventually see most of our lands which encompass the Tāmaki isthmus and the inner Waitematā, taken from us through various means until we were reduced to landless impoverished second-class citizens, living at the margins of the new towns and communities which grew and thrived from the bounty and sale of our lands.
Leadership, unity, tautoko, a belief that justice will come, and a commitment to doing what is required to protect the collective good, are the keys to overcoming sieges. Also required is, when the time is right, negotiation, which requires compromise to find an outcome that is durable. An outcome that is mana-enhancing to those involved.
As the parrying continues around the water impasse that threatens restrictions for our city, there has seemed to be an unwillingness from some involved to find a fair and durable outcome, solutions which must include more sustainable water usage solutions, and a focus on reducing our dependence on outside sources of water.
I want to tautoko my neighbouring iwi Waikato-Tainui, who my people often united with, and shared our collective resources and lands with, when required. This included fighting side-by-side to fend off the fierce incursions of other iwi into the Waikato including Ngāpuhi from the north, emboldened and made almost invincible by the new muskets of the Pākeha.
The people of Tainui, as with all iwi and hapu, have known loss and exclusion, confiscation, and dislocation, of lands. The Waikato awa - a powerful ancestor and sustainer of the iwi - has had its waters degraded. Its mana, as that of the iwi it sustains, diminished.
In times of need and incursion over generations, my people have shared our lands and resources with our Tainui whanaunga. We, in turn, would be nurtured and sustained by the waters of the awa, alongside the people of Waikato-Tainui. We remain eternally grateful and humbled by the hospitality from our neighbours, and proud of the reciprocation shown by our people and the sharing of our land and resources.
Our historical connection to the awa in no way allows us to claim mana, or any place to speak and influence an outcome over what occurs in the lands and involving the resources of others, just as our shared history does not allow Tainui to assert mana and influence over us in our domain. This, of course, applies to all other iwi or groups.
The impasse around the awa, which is causing further concern and uncertainty for those of us who live in Auckland, needs to be resolved. It is not helped by the CEO of the Waikato River Authority trying to monetise the situation and effectively blackmail the people of Auckland into forking our tens of millions a day. But, as I have said, it is not for me to speak and make demands on the negotiations of my neighbours in their lands and affairs.
There are many fathers to the degradation of the river. The health and well-being of the river must be at the heart of any process to reverse the degradation. There are many causes for the dire shortage our city is facing, including the impacts of climate change, wastage and the demands of massive population increase in Tāmaki Makaurau.
Ngāti Whatua and those who have joined us over time in calling Tāmaki Makaurau home will face the consequences of this water crisis. For reasons outside our control, we are required to rely on the Waikato river to top up a shortfall of water needed in our rohe.
There are a number of issues outside the control of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei but there are some things we can do. In response, and to explore better ways to manage the wai resource, we do have to make best practice and sustainability a pivotal part of any future water management approach. We will work alongside iwi and hāpu who also are mana whenua of wider Tāmaki Makaurau to seek solutions to the problems and water siege that we are forced to endure and which threatens unhelpful restrictions for us all.
Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei has called a hui later this month with other mana whenua iwi of wider Tāmaki Makaurau to combine minds and resources to develop a strategy to support our council, and seek solutions to the new wai crisis we all face.
• Joe Pihema is a cultural expert and advocate for language and history with Ngāti Whātua o Ōrākei.