$700,000 for ECan-iwi link

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 05:00 05/12/2012

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Environment Canterbury will spend nearly $700,000 this financial year on a Ngai Tahu "engagement" programme, which has included staff helping write a waiata.

The figures were provided to the Timaru Herald after news that 21 staff from the council's Timaru and Christchurch offices last week completed a two-day excursion to the Arowhenua marae in Temuka.

A second marae visit for other staff, to Port Levy, is planned for February.

An ECan staff member, who did not wish to be named for fear of repercussions, contacted the Timaru Herald citing concerns over the cost to ratepayers financially and in staff time, especially as ECan was making cuts elsewhere.

The worker said participation was voluntary, but there was pressure from management to join in.

ECan chief executive Bill Bayfield said the council would spend about $692,000 on the various activities and staff time associated with the Ngai Tahu engagement programme this financial year. Last week's marae visit cost $6000, plus a koha from ECan.

"Workshops on Ngai Tahu history and Treaty settlement have been part of the training in the last year," Bayfield said.

"Recently staff have contributed ideas to the composition, by Ngai Tahu singer and song writer Ariana Tikao, of an ECan waiata."

Bayfield said the Government had asked ECan's appointed commissioners to engage with Ngai Tahu.

"Since 2010, a joint work programme, called Tuia, has been put in place.

"Implementing the programme is one of the organisation's top priorities and resources have been re-prioritised to enable us to achieve this."

Bayfield said while ECan had specific obligations to Ngai Tahu regarding the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi and the Resource Management Act, the partnership being built was not driven by these.

"We genuinely believe that a strong partnership with Ngai Tahu is good for Canterbury."

Green Party MP and former ECan councillor Eugenie Sage said the organisation had previously not engaged enough with the iwi.

"It is one of the few positive things the commissioners have done. The commissioners are making up for ECan's past neglect of Ngai Tahu," she said.

ECan's annual budget is about $140 million. Sage opposed ECan making its six laboratory staff redundant by outsourcing its lab work to Hills Laboratories, and making cuts to the Clean Heat programme, but said those were separate matters.

"The real test of this engagement programme's success is whether it actually leads to better water quality through collaboration with Ngai Tahu," she said.

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Bayfield said Ngai Tahu's general manager of tribal interests, David O'Connell, would become the engagement programme leader from January. ECan had also employed two tangata whenua facilitators for the Canterbury water management strategy committees.

"This way of partnering is new for Canterbury and is ahead of much of the rest of New Zealand."

COUNTING COSTS

Engagement programme cost $692,000
21 staff spend two days on marae, costing $6000
Staff contribute to writing an ECan waiata
ECan views partnership as good for Canterbury

- The Timaru Herald

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