Marlborough iwi want more involvement ahead of council elections

Rangitane communications advisor Keelan Walker outside Rangitane House in Blenheim.
ELENA MCPHEE/FAIRFAX NZ

Rangitane communications advisor Keelan Walker outside Rangitane House in Blenheim.

An "old school" attitude towards iwi in Marlborough is preventing the region from capitalising on the huge economic opportunities that iwi can bring, a Rangitane member says. 

Rangitane communications advisor Keelan Walker said it was disappointing no council candidates had approached Rangitane in the lead-up to the election to get their take on the issues. 

"There's a little bit of an old feel around Blenheim where people don't see the contribution that we are able to make now," Walker said. 

Three of Marlborough's eight tribes, Rangitane, Ngati Apa and Ngati Kuia, were worth a combined total of about $150 million. 

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"Iwi can contribute in several different areas, not just culturally and historically but economically as well," Walker said. 

He said the traditional idea of what Maori could offer the district had changed. 

"We do contribute in a big way to the economy of the area," he said. 

Along with Ngati Kuia and Ngati Apa, Rangitane was working on a deal to purchase RNZAF base Woodbourne, which had been ongoing for three years. 

"It's not like we are investing outside of the Wairau," Walker said. 

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Rangitane owned the Blenheim courthouse, Marlborough Boys' College, the Rangitane building, the Ukaipo conference centre, and had recently sold a marine farm in Port Underwood. 

Walker said there was an "interesting debate" nationwide about having Maori wards on all councils, but he did not know how much support there would be in Marlborough.

"Blenheim's old school, and it'll take a little while to change," Walker said. 

The iwi did have a positive relationship with the current council which he wanted to continue after the elections, Walker said. 

However, Te Atiawa chairwoman Glenice Paine said she felt the council had not given Te Atiawa the appropriate level of involvement as a treaty partner. 

The aquaculture section of the Marlborough Environment Plan, yet to be drafted, was of particular concern to Te Atiawa, which had extensive marine farming interests built up over two decades. 

The council's regional planning and development committee resolved in early September to establish a working group on the new aquaculture provisions, and to ask iwi how they wanted to be represented on the group. 

Te Atiawa only found out about the group in the newspaper and had heard nothing from the council yet. 

"That kind of arrogance really upsets us," Paine said. 

"If the council was really serious about meaningful engagement with iwi they would have come to see us in the first instance." 

Councillor David Oddie said it was "early days" for the working group, and all of the Top of the South iwi would be asked how they wanted to be represented on the group. 

He saw Te Atiawa as having an important role, Oddie said. 

Several council candidates had spoken to Te Atiawa, Paine said. 

Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman said he thought the council had a "very good" relationship with iwi, especially since the Kurahaupo Ki Te Waipounamu Trust was formed to progress the treaty settlements of Ngati Apa, Ngati Kuia and Rangitane. 

He was aware water management was a key issue the council would need to work with iwi on in the future, and had attended a "mayors and iwi chairs" forum a couple of months ago, he said. 

The council continued to work on its relationship with iwi, and he knew what Te Atiawa's expectations were, he said. 

Walker said over the next two years he expected Rangitane to put a lot more emphasis on environmental issues.

The iwi worked closely with Ngati Kuia, whose environment manager Raymond Smith was the iwi representative on the council's environment committee. 

Ngai Tahu's Kaikoura runanga chairman Henare Manawatu said the runanga had limited involvement with the council, and were only really concerned with the area south of the Awatere river. 

However, the runanga had made numerous submissions to the environment plan. 

Manawatu wanted to know what the council was doing to make the Awatere river drinkable, he said. 

Ngati Toa chairman Johnny Joseph said he could not speak on behalf of all members of Ngati Toa, but he believed the area's waterways were of concern. 

The state of the region's main river, the Wairau, and other rivers such as the Opawa was worrying. 

Previous councils lacked foresight with their management of water, he said. 

 - The Marlborough Express

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