The Tūwharetoa Māori Trust Board has become the first iwi authority in Aotearoa New Zealand to have functions transferred to them by a council.
A special ceremony was held in Taupō for the official signing of an agreement to transfer specific water quality monitoring functions to the trust board.
At a meeting in July, Waikato regional councillors voted unanimously in favour of transferring summer bathing beach, regional rivers, rainfall and groundwater quality monitoring within the Lake Taupō catchment to the trust board.
Governance and senior officials from both the council and the trust board were at last Friday's event which saw the formal agreement signed by leaders.
Council chairman Russ Rimmington said it was an important step forward in resource management for our nation, sending a strong signal that the time has come for more effective engagement between councils and iwi.
"The signing of this agreement is the start of something new, providing the opportunity for Ngāti Tūwharetoa to be directly involved in tracking the quality of these water bodies over time.
"For Waikato Regional Council, it creates a more efficient method for delivering some of our monitoring functions, saving us more than $100,000 over a 10-year period," Rimmington said.
Regional councillor Andrew MacPherson said the council had become more confident in working in partnership with iwi.
"Through the maturing of our relationship, we are no longer looking to just meet statutory requirements or minimums. We are seeking greater opportunities to work together, to partner on projects that are mutually beneficial to iwi and the council, and therefore the wider community," MacPherson said.
The provision to transfer functions to an iwi authority had been an option since the Resource Management Act (RMA) was enacted almost three decades ago.
Section 33 of the RMA enabled a local authority to transfer any one or more of its functions, powers or duties under the act to another public authority, except for the power of transfer itself.
Tūwharetoa Māori Trust Board will only collect samples – not make decisions – and the data collected in undertaking sampling will remain in the ownership of Waikato Regional Council.
The council may choose to revoke the transfer agreement at any time should the conditions in the agreement not be met.