A new partnership between Western Bay of Plenty District Council and Te Arawa Māori has been described as "sacred" and "pretty momentous".
The council met yesterday and unanimously agreed to the Te Arawa ki Tai Kawenata - a covenant between the two parties that formally include coastal Te Arawa Māori in the council's operational matters. The decision means council staff will continue to work with representatives of Te Arawa ki Tai to address any operational issues arising from the kawenata document, including confirming an approach to ensure the appropriate iwi, hapū or marae delegates are engaged with by the council at the right time and in the right way for the particular kaupapa.
Ngati Moko representative Tony Wihapi said it was a significant day for Te Arawa.
"It's our wish to enter into a covenant. We perceive this as a sacred relationship between hapu, iwi and the council."
Previously, the council engaged local Māori through the Tauranga Moana and the Te Arawa ki Takutai Partnership Forum, but in July 2020 Te Arawa representatives removed themselves from this. Workshops have since been held on how best to re-establish the council relationship. This involved several iwi, hapū and marae of Te Arawa ki Takutai and collectively they were known as Te Ihu o te Waka.
The kawenata document forms the grounds of Te Ihu o te Waka's plans for working with the council.
It includes plans to establish a council of elders (kahui koeke) which affords up to two members of this council the right to attend meetings of Te Ihu o Te Waka and of the district council. While they will not have voting rights, they will be entitled to be remunerated for attendance.
The kawenata also ensures the guiding principles of the Tirity o te Waitangi be adhered to.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
In a report presented to the council, Council Māori relationships and engagement advisor Chris Nepia said Te Ihu o te Waka's function will be to build the council's understanding about Tirity o te Waitangi settlements, and make recommendations or actions to enhance Māori capacity and capability to contribute to the council's decision-making process.
Funding for the kawenata will come from existing budgets approved in the Long-term Plan relating to Māori governance. Previously, such funding supported meeting fees paid to Te Kōmiti Māori and the partnership forums. In the past financial year, the council spent $17,826.01 from an annual budget of $75,000.
"In the past three financial years, council has never exhausted the budget provided for supporting Māori governance arrangements," Nepia said, in the report.
In the meeting, councillor Monique Gray said the partnership was "a good first step moving forward in building relationships again".
"This is pretty momentous for our rohe."
Mayor Garry Webber said he hoped for something similar with Tauranga Moana.
"This is good ... but we have some more work to do."