Hawke's Bay Treaty settlement groups are calling on the Crown to replace the Hawke's Bay Regional Council with commissioners.

Ngāti Pāhauwera Development Trust chairman Toro Waaka said "many people in Hawke's Bay are fed up" with the council's water management.

"How long do you let it go before you decide that you don't want to be a party to this camp-run-a-muck?"

Ngāti Pāhauwera Development Trust chairman Toro Waaka
Ngāti Pāhauwera Development Trust chairman Toro Waaka

Waaka also co-chair's the regional planning committee with Hawke's Bay Regional Council chairman Rex Graham, set up in 2015 to oversee the review and development of the Regional Policy Statement and regional plans.

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Graham said he was "disappointed" the Treaty settlement groups felt they needed to make "these comments".

"We thought we had a very strong relationship with tangata whenua and council is working very hard in that direction.

"We thought that we had a renewed strategy in the environment and were all working together to work really hard in improving the environment and fixing a lot of regress which has occurred over the last 100 years but clearly Toro doesn't think we are going fast enough. I'm not sure how we could go faster."

Rex Graham at a recent community planting.
Rex Graham at a recent community planting.

Waaka said "in the three years that we have been party to the regional council, the water quality has gotten worse - the drinking water has gotten worse, people can't swim in our rivers and Maori people can't gather their traditional seafood".

"We're meant to be involved in all the plans and policy discussions but we're not. They've just released the Long Term Plan and they didn't even discuss it with us," Waaka said.

"We decided we are wasting our time sitting at that table if they are going to be dismissive of their legal obligation to engage with us."

Waaka said when the committee was set up under former Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations MInister Christopher Finlayson the settlement groups were told by Finlayson that "if the regional council was not going act in good faith in regards to the Act that he would replace them with commissioners".

"We thought maybe that is the way to go."

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In a statement the groups said: "We propose the Crown appoint commissioners to replace the Hawke's Bay Regional Council and work with tangata whenua to review the [regional council's] regional planning committee engagement mechanisms".

"We propose the commissioners work with the tangata whenua post settlement entities and Ngāti Kahungunu Incorporated to resolve environmental degradation issues. We recommend the Crown work with Hawke's Bay Regional Council to educate them on their treaty responsibilities and establish processes and mechanisms for the sharing of decision making and associated responsibilities with their treaty partners," it said.

Graham said, going forward, the parties needed to sit down, see how they can resolve this and start working together again.

"I thought we were doing really well but clearly from some people's perspective we weren't doing as well as we should have been."

"It's disappointing the way it's gone but we will find a way through this."

Waaka and other leaders met with Environment Minister David Parker, Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage and Minister for Māori Development Nanaia Mahuta in Napier last week. Graham was unable to attend.

Parker said there were no plans to replace the council with commissioners.

He said the meeting was to build relationships and listen to concerns.

"I was glad to hear the bilateral relationship with iwi that had settled was going well."

While Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana supported the groups, he believes a commissioner is the "worst thing that could happen".

"There needs to be open dialogue, face to face between settlement groups and the Hawke's Bay Regional Council. That's the only way we are going to resolve it, not through any commissioner."

"I'm confident that our hapu leaders will be resolution focused, so we need to keep the rangatiratanga (governance) in our own hands rather than do it through a third party and the only way we can do that is by creating a greater relationship with the regional council which means the regional council has to change its ways too."