The Waikato River Settlement has always reflected the sentiment that “the health and wellbeing of water is intrinsically linked to the health and wellbeing of people” which is what we are now seeing being echoed in the Three Waters reform.
Water, wastewater and stormwater
In October 2021, Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced the Government will create four publicly owned water entities to manage delivery of water, wastewater and stormwater (Three Waters) services in New Zealand.
The driver for change came about as a result of the inability of existing infrastructure to uphold the health and wellbeing for our waterways. Aging infrastructure, climate change implications and ineffective governance regimes in the current water management system required that change happen and that it happens immediately. Whilst “health and wellbeing” (Te Mana o te Wai) features strongly in the reforms to come, this is not unfamiliar to Waikato-Tainui. The Waikato River Settlement is hinged on the two cornerstone pillars of Te Mana o te Awa (Health and Wellbeing) and Mana Whakahaere (Co-governance/ management) and in the Three Waters space, is the benchmark by which we measure the reforms against.
The priority for Waikato-Tainui in the Three Waters reforms has been to ensure that these principles are continually at the forefront of any policy change and that the integrity and treaty obligations within our settlement are not marginalised or compromised in any way. What we are seeing in the reforms is a strong alignment to our settlement principles and in particular the manner in how they are to be exercised on the ground through decision making (mana whakahaere) and reflected in a more holistic application to policy development regarding health and wellbeing (mana o te awa/wai). The Waikato River Settlement has always reflected the sentiment that “the health and wellbeing of water is intrinsically linked to the health and wellbeing of people” which is what we are now seeing being echoed in the Three Waters reform. The Waikato River Settlement has afforded us a position of strength for not only the Three Water reforms but for reforms in general. This will continue to be an important check and balance for us as we actively track the progress of the Three Waters reforms this year.