Many Iwi organisations are going through their treaty settlement processes at the moment. All of them have claimed redress for the environmental destruction that western industry has caused.
Maori say "Ko au te awa, ko te awa ko au" or "I am the river, the river is me" - and treat waterways as a living being.
It is clear that not all of us treat freshwater like this and also that this is impacting not just the environment, but human lives - just look at the chaos caused by chemicals going into the Waimakiriri River that temporarily blinded and hospitalised several competitors in the coast to coast.
We know that the rapid growth of intensive land use is punishing our water quality. To be fair to the dairy farmers - even though proportionally their impact per person is much greater because of the animals they raise - urban waterways are very nasty as well.
Cox's creek in Auckland is permanently closed to swimming. It is sad that we have let it get to this irreparable state and makes me wonder what we will leave for future generations.
Perhaps lesser-known is the Omaru River in Glen Innes. Like many urban waterways it is a depressing sight. What was once a flourishing and swimmable suburban waterway has areas that are now reminiscent of a city drain.
In 2007 it was viewed as the most polluted waterway in Auckland, home to rubbish dumping and chemical spills that feed out into the so-called "crown jewel" of our tourism industry - the Hauraki Gulf. It's a small window into what is a nationwide systemic issue.
Last week I wrote about the power of creative approaches that inspire people to change such problems.
A great example of this is Auckland production company, Mad Ave, who are setting out to change the state of their local waterway, Omaru River, with a community-based creative project that is educational, engaging and ensuring their community is accountable.
The River Talks is inspiring communities to learn, transform and come together to protect what they love.
As one student said "It's hard to stop when it inspires you so much. I want to help bring life back to our place".
I encourage anyone who wants to take action that helps people to head along to The River Talks next week where artists, scientists and community leaders will put on a striking multimedia performance to both celebrate and transform a waterway and its community.
Mad Ave Studios cultural director Tamati Patuwai says "when we gather in such a way, where those with power to gather resources and others with passion and desire are committed to working together, anything is possible. This is the only way forward to sustainable restoration".
I reckon we desperately need this sort of collaborative action and take my hat off to them.
The River Talks is a free event and on at the following times:
- Wednesday 25th February 1.30pm
- Thursday 26th February 1.30pm and 5.30pm
- Friday 27th February 1.30pm and 5.30pm