A new five-year strategic plan will help seven Ngā Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui trustees when they begin their three-year term in September, current deputy chairman Dr Rāwiri Tinirau says.
He is one of three trustees already chosen by Te Rūnanga o Te Awa Tupua, a hapū council that spans the entire Whanganui River. Four others will be elected by registered Whanganui iwi members in a postal vote that ends on August 29.
"The trustees coming in September have got work ahead of them, but it's very much clearer than three years ago," Tinirau said.
The plan was put together by current trustees, with advice from Tamahaki, Uenuku, Hinengakau, Tamaupoko and Tupoho representatives. It covers the five years to 2022.
Any changes will not be immediate. The Te Awa Tupua Strategy arising from the Whanganui River Treaty of Waitangi Settlement is multigenerational.
The legislation is just one and a half years old, which Tinirau said meant the plan was in its first 1.5 minutes.
The plan has six main goals. One is to make sure everyone in the river catchment understands the "natural law and value system" of Te Awa Tupua, the river, the spiritual and physical entity that sustains all within its area.
People need to know that Te Awa Tupua means all the waters that join to make up the river and all the lands and people in between, that its iwi are inextricably linked to the river, and that all residents have a responsibility to care for it.
"Our settlement is very unique in that it provides the opportunity for the whole community to recognise and be part of the changed status of Te Awa Tupua," Tinirau said.
Another goal is to enhance the role of Whanganui iwi in decisions about resources. The trust will provide training programmes, establishing hapū as specialists and experts in aspects of implementing the settlement.
The plan aims to strengthen iwi and hapū links within the area, and get people fully involved in their own culture - Whanganuitanga. Young leaders have been nurtured through Raukotahi Rangatahi Summits.
"They will be our next generation of lawyers, planners and educators", Tinirau said.
Marae can now apply for $5000 grants to make repairs and meet health and safety requirements.
"A lot of it is going to ensure that our people can go back to marae on a regular basis."
The trust received $81 million in the settlement, and Tinirau said media had been too focused on the money.
It's to be "grown" to make the river tribes prosperous. The Te Ngākinga o Whanganui Trust was set up to do this. Its trustees are Declan Millin and Keria Ponga, and it is chaired by Simon Karipa.
Another aim is a strong partnership with local authorities, so that Te Awa Tupua will be front-of-mind when it comes to decisions about the Whanganui River.
Trustees also want to "solidify" the new Labour-led Government's understanding of the settlement legislation. Local government has been supportive, Tinirau said, but the "Wellington machine" moves slowly.
Conservation Department Director-General Lou Sanson is the only head to visit so far. Trustees plan to talk to David Parker, Eugenie Sage and Nanaia Mahuta as well. They are working on local initiatives in the meantime.
Lastly, the plan aims for effectiveness within its own organisation. One of its roles will be to support Dame Tariana Turia and Turama Hawira, who together will be Te Pou Tupua, the human face of the river.
Te Pou Tupua have a $30 million Te Korotete fund for initiatives that enhance the health of the river and its people. Criteria for the fund are being developed.
Ngā Tāngata Tiaki absorbed three other iwi bodies - the Pākaitore Trust, Te Whiringa Muka Trust and Whanganui River Māori Trust Board. They brought fisheries and other funds with them, and it has taken a year and a half to fully understand their complexities.
In future the trust will need close links with four new governance entities formed after the Whanganui land settlements are made.
The trust aims to do more communication about its activities. It has a Facebook page and website, and sends out monthly pānui. It also produces annual and quarterly reports.
During the remainder of this year it aims to set up a Whanganui Iwi development trust and it also wants to work alongside local authorities and other organisation to give effect to the Te Awa Tupua values.
It finds itself owning property. It was given its 357 Victoria Ave building as part of the settlement, and the building also houses the Whanganui office for Te Puni Kokiri (the Ministry of Māori Development). It will be a good government tenant, Tinirau said.
The other property is the house behind it at 116 Liverpool St, the former Whanganui Māori Trust Board building in Taupo Quay and the Whanganui Courthouse in Market Pl.