An iwi member of Horizons Regional Council's co-governed climate committee says she is excited by the partnership between tangata whenua and local government to plan a regional response to climate change.
The Climate Action Joint Committee is made up of seven tangata whenua members, seven territorial authority members, and the mayor of each of the region's city and district councils.
Its meeting this month was the first time tangata whenua representatives with voting rights have been formally appointed to any Horizons committee. The representatives were appointed by Horizons on the recommendation of iwi leaders.
Tangata whenua appointee Jill Sheehy, of Te Ātihaunui ā Pāpārangi, Ngā Paerangi nō Kaiwhaiki Pā and Te Rūnanga o Tūpoho, said she is pleased with the co-governance approach, which she says gives hapū the opportunity to put forward a "uniquely Whanganui" perspective on relationships with the environment.
"Everything that we do is really centred on what we've been brought up with and the tikanga that we've been taught," Sheehy said.
"When I was growing up, even though we had moved to town, we still spent just about every weekend up at the pā. Our dads would go out gathering, hunting and collecting. Our mums and nans would be doing piupius in the wharepuni, and us as kids would be swimming in the river. We'd go out eeling.
"All of these things have helped us to explain to our council counterparts our perspective on how we're supposed to be looking after our environment and ourselves."
Sheehy has also worked as an iwi representative on Whanganui District Council's Climate Change Strategy, which she says brings together New Zealand European and Māori world views to address climate change.
"The Whanganui council strategy focuses on human activity and changing the way we think and live to reduce our impact on our planet," she said.
"The Whanganui council has longstanding relationship agreements with local collectives of hapū which hold authority over culture and traditions on their ancestral lands and their relationships with air, water, tongi tawhito, waahi tapu and other taonga. These hapū collectives are Te Rūnanga o Tamaūpoko and Te Rūnanga o Tūpoho.
"To recognise, encourage and support uri and our councils to develop a local climate change strategy together is a step forward in local government relations with iwi and hapū. The outcomes we can achieve by working together are far-reaching and beneficial for all."
Sheehy said there has been a big push, as a result of policy and legislation such as Te Mana o te Wai and the Awa Tupua (Whanganui River) Settlement Act 2017, for councils to include tangata whenua perspectives and knowledge in decision-making.
"That's exactly what we'll be doing in the Climate Action Joint Committee – bringing our own perspective and focusing really on using our resources in a sustainable way. Even with urban growth and spatial growth and all of that, our whenua still needs to be looked after. It all feeds in and connects to our wai and our sustainable life."