A hui at Pehiaweri Marae in Whangārei to navigate the Government's proposals to clean up fresh waterways highlighted the need for everyone to be in the same waka.

The multi-stranded "Essential Freshwater: Healthy Water, Fairly Allocated" report's impact on Māori water and land users, inherent values and future safeguards were discussed at Thursday's meeting between iwi representatives, local hapu, freshwater campaigners and advisers, Ministry for Environment (MfE) officials and Northland Regional Council staff, among others.

The document proposes immediate action so water quality improves within five years, and waterways and ecosystems return to a healthy state within a generation. It also addresses water allocation issues and commercial interests.

The Māori perspective, ''Te Mana o te Wai'' — defined as the integrated and holistic well-being of the water, is key for the success of the kaupapa, Dover Samuels said.


Among speakers at the hui, he is one of two Te Taitokerau representatives on Kahui Wai Māori, the Māori Freshwater Forum which works with the Cross-government Water Taskforce. The other member from Te Tai Tokerau, Millan Ruka was also there.

''We are looking at the quality of water through a Māori lens,'' Samuels told the Northern Advocate.

''Our priority is the health of the water, as the Māori saying is, 'from the mountain to the sea'. It is incumbent on us all that we pass on a healthy resource to our mokopuna.

''This is not about finger-pointing at dairy farmers, to sheep and beef farmers, we must stop that. It doesn't deal with the health of the water from here on.

''Water has to be first and foremost safe to drink. Commercial interests and the allocation of the resource is subservient to the health of the water. All of us have to agree the problem is inter-generational degradation of the water and get on and start working on reversing that degradation.

''We're all in this waka together.''

It will be no easy ride. One strand of the proposal under close review involves the alignment of several ministerial and legislative areas, including the Resource Management Act, Ministry for Primary Industries, forestry and other land operations, urban development, regional and district council plans and policies.

The Pehiaweri hui was one of many meetings held around the country during public consultation on the water clean-up policy which has been criticised in some quarters for being rushed, despite being long overdue, and for its timing during the year's busiest season for a major sector directly impacted, farming.


While the hui was being held, Environment Minister Damien O'Connor was farm-side, meeting with leaders and farmers in the regional economic agency Northland Inc-led Extension 350, a five-year programme to raise performance and profitability of 350 Northland farms.

The submission period closes on October 17, after which the policy will be finalised accordingly.