A group formed to plan for and guide the health and wellbeing of the Whanganui River and its large catchment has had its first meeting.

The group is Te Kōpuka nā Te Awa Tupua, and was formed under the Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Act.

It is made up of representatives of iwi from the Whanganui catchment, organisations with river interests, local authorities, central government agencies, commercial and recreational users and environmental groups who met last month.

The group will deliver a plan, Te Heke Ngahuru ki Te Awa Tupua, which will identify environmental, social, cultural and economic issues relevant to the river and catchment.

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Under the Te Awa Tupua legislation, all decision makers will have to have regard to Te Heke as they perform their functions.

Members of Te Kōpuka have been chosen and nominated for the next three years. But it will not be an exclusive group.

Others will be brought in as needed, and the group will interact with the community.

Horizons member Nicola Patrick said the group's priorities will be different from those of the past.

"The values of tangata whenua are explicit within the guiding value set of Tupua Te Kawa, as is the place of iwi and hapū at the table to determine how those values are applied."

Ruapehu representative Don Cameron said members of the group will be there for the health and wellbeing of Te Awa Tupua, rather than the interests of their particular group.

It will be a paradigm shift, Whanganui Iwi representative Gerrard Albert said, from speaking about the river, to speaking to the river.

The "Te Heke Ngahuru ki Te Awa Tupua" name refers to the potential of Te Awa Tupua to provide for all if cared for and protected as a living spiritual and physical resource.

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The "Te Kōpuka" in the group's name refers to white mānuka, the strong, pliable material used to build traditional eel weirs. It symbolises connection, co-operation and strength.

MEMBERS OF TE KŌPUKA NĀ TE AWA TUPUA
- Gerrard Albert, Whanganui Iwi
- Wiari Rauhina and Tyrone Smith, Ngāti Tūwharetoa
- Gabriel Moana and Eric Crown, Ngāti Rereahu
- Anaru Marshall, Ngāti Maru
- Des Canterbury, Ngā Rauru Kiitahi
- Hera Smith, Ngāti Maniapoto
- Pāora Haitana, Tamahaki
- Moana Ellis, Uenuku
- Hone Turu, Te Ihingarang
+ and others representing six other iwi memberships:
- Hamish McDouall, Whanganui District Council
- Don Cameron, Ruapehu District Council
- Neil Volzke, Stratford District Council
- Nicola Patrick, Horizons Regional Council
- Glenn Mclean, Fish and Game
- Damien Coutts, Conservation Department
- Tracey Hickman, Genesis Energy
- Rory Smith, tourism
- Keith Beautrais, environmment
- Nicole Dryden, recreation,
- Geoff Burton, primary industries