A new governance structure, Te Puwaha, was announced last week for Whanganui's port.
A new model will ensure the planned revitalisation of Whanganui's Port takes place in a way that includes the whole community and recognises the new legal status of the Whanganui River under the Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Act 2017.
The four foundation governance members are: Ngā Tāngata Tiaki chairman Gerrard Albert; Whanganui District Council mayor Hamish McDouall; Horizons Regional Council chairwoman Rachel Keedwell, Whanganui Land Settlement Negotiations Trust project manager Tracey Waitokia, and Whanganui Land Settlement Negotiations Trust chairman Ken Mair.
Ngā Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui Trust chairman Gerrard Albert said under the guidance of Whanganui iwi, represented by Ngā Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui Trust and the Whanganui Land Settlement Negotiation Trust, agreement has been reached with local government.
"Te Puwaha will bring together two local government projects and a private relocation project by boat builders Q-West, to ensure that Tupua te Kawa are upheld in line with the legal framework of Te Awa Tupua.
"Legally under the Te Awa Tupua Act, a set of innate values called Tupua te Kawa must guide all decision making in respect of the Whanganui River.
"These values can broadly be described as the metaphysical and indivisible nature of the river, the intrinsic and inalienable place of hapū and iwi as the river, and community empowerment via a collective obligation to work collaboratively for the river's benefit.
"Indivisibility is a key component of Tupua te Kawa.
"A bipartisan and community-led approach is required to ensure that this project is completed efficiently and effectively.
"With any project we start at the same place together and then walk together."
In March, it was unanimously agreed at a meeting of Horizons Regional Council, Whanganui District Council, Ngā Tāngata Tiaki Trust and the Whanganui Land Settlement Negotiation Trust, that the governance of the project would be guided by Tupua te Kawa.
The governance group says a whole of community model is integral to the success of the project and the make up of this group is an evolving and expanding exercise to understand the key considerations in conjunction with the community.
A list of potential governance members will be collated over the next three weeks and appointed by the councils and iwi to the governance group.
Several local government and private projects to strengthen the Port's retaining structures and physical infrastructure, will now be combined, under shared governance, as a community-led project called Te Puwaha (the outlet or river mouth).
Horizons chairwoman Rachel Keedwell says Horizons has been planning to strengthen the moles and other historic river training structures at the Whanganui River mouth since 2018.
"This to ensure the safety of the communities and built environment in the area, as well as creating a fixed and navigable river mouth required for port operations."
Whanganui District Council has planned investment in the strengthening of Wharves 2 and 3 and other infrastructure improvements at the Whanganui Port as part of a long term social, recreational and economic plan for the area.
Mayor Hamish McDouall says the current stage of the work is very much the first phase of development to future-proof the infrastructure.
"We need this infrastructure to be in place and in good condition to provide a foundation for a longer-term plan, based on encouraging economic development via the port and employment opportunities for locals."
Albert added that Te Awa Tupua was about a community obligation shared with iwi under a common value set, Tupua te Kawa.
"That way no one is left behind."
Whanganui Land Settlement Trust chairman Ken Mair said people were inclined to assume that past project delays have been down to iwi and hapū holding the process to ransom.
"That has never been the case.
"The problem has been a lack of inclusion of hapū and iwi from the outset and insufficient understanding of the legal obligations of the Te Awa Tupua legislation.
"The definition of community under Te Awa Tupua includes the hapū and iwi," Mair said.
"When it comes to resource consent processes under Tupua te Kawa, we want to take a different approach, where we examine the environmental, social and other implications, find solutions and then lodge resource consents."
An important aspect of the appointments to this project governance group will be finding community leaders with exceptional governance skills and the ability to uphold Tupua te Kawa.
McDouall said getting the governance structure right and the Te Awa Tupua Act had to be a priority.
"We have an historic opportunity here to make a new start, requiring a different mindset in relation to both the river and our whole community.
"We are actively searching for people to join the governance of the project.
"We want people connected to the area who understand and can work with Tupua te Kawa."