Kaitiakitanga and local government: tangata whenua participation in environmental management
This study revisited an earlier investigation on guidelines for local authority consultation with tangata whenua. The report reviews progress made on tangata whenua involvement in Resource Management Act (RMA) processes and identifies a number of areas for improvement, particularly in the areas of processes followed and relationships between iwi and councils.
Sustainable management of New Zealand's natural and built environments depends as much on the values and beliefs of individuals and communities, as it does on specialist knowledge about environmental effects or resource use efficiencies. The natural environment and natural resources of each part of this country have particular meaning and values for the iwi and hapū who are tangata whenua of that place. The challenge for all New Zealanders is to acknowledge and accommodate each others' values in a way that enhances and strengthens environmental management and, ultimately, sustainable development.
This investigation returned to the PCE's 1992 Proposed Guidelines for Local Authority Consultation with Tangata Whenua; these provided a framework within which to assess factors currently affecting the participation of tangata whenua in environmental planning and resource management, and to identify a range of approaches for achieving positive environmental outcomes. The investigation worked with the three case study regions: Auckland, Hawkes Bay and West Coast. Information was also gathered on proactive initiatives being taken by other iwi and hapū around the country. A range of issues were considered including:
- the statutory requirements to recognise and provide for the particular values and relationships of tangata whenua with the environment and the natural resources of their area
- kaitiaki responsibilities and management according to Māori cultural and spiritual values
- developing constructive relationships between councils and tangata whenua
- processes for consultation and resource consent applications
- environmental effects and practical solutions.
The investigation found that there is considerable variability amongst councils and across iwi and hapu in the processes followed, in understanding and expectations, and in their ability to work effectively with each other.
Findings & recommendations
Factors affecting tangata whenua participation in environmental planning and resource management
- The current legislation provides a strong basis for tangata whenua participation in policy development and management for the natural environment.
- Local authorities have separate legal status from the Crown generally, and with regard to the Treaty of Waitangi
- There is widespread opposition amongst tangata whenua to any amendments to the RMA that would be seen to weaken the current provisions.
- There is widespread support from tangata whenua for amendments to bring a sharper and more practical focus to critical sections of the RMA.
- There are no national policy frameworks or standards to ensure efficient, consistent and reliable systems for tangata whenua participation in environmental management or the appropriate accommodation of the values and concerns of tangata whenua as required under the RMA.
- There is often poor consultation and communication between local authorities and tangata whenua. In many cases bad experiences between councils and tangata whenua have soured relationships, eroded trust and fostered hostile assumptions and attitudes
- The processes currently operating are often overly complex, cumbersome and inefficient and there is limited resourcing available for tangata whenua involvement in environmental management.
Principal points of change and continuity since 1992
- There is greater awareness amongst some councils and developers of the requirements on them under the RMA to recognise and provide for the values and concerns of tangata whenua in environmental management.
- There is greater awareness amongst iwi and hapū of the opportunities and processes for their involvement and for the practical expression of kaitiakitanga in sustainable resource management.
- The increasing strength and confidence of urban Māori groups are a significant challenge to traditional iwi and hapū authority and structures
- The general emphasis on RMA consultation processes, rather than on the environmental outcomes those processes are intended to achieve, is a continuing pattern. This is often associated with tensions regarding status and authority to speak, and constraints on the resources available for tangata whenua involvement.
- Destruction, damage and degradation of places and natural resources of importance to tangata whenua is ongoing.
- There is no change or diminution in the commitment of tangata whenua as kaitiaki, or in their determination to have a meaningful, practical and respected role in the sustainable management of the natural resources and places in their rohe, and to contribute to good environmental outcomes.
Approaches for achieving positive environmental outcomes
- The development of iwi or hapū resource management plans is a constructive approach. The establishment of iwi or hapū resource management units is also enormously valuable.
- Direct negotiations between tangata whenua and resource consent applicants give opportunities for good environmental outcomes to be achieved.
- The transfer of councils' functions to tangata whenua under section 33 of the RMA has important potential for improved facilitation of the requirements of sections 6(e) and 7(a) and (e) of that Act.
- Monitoring and research programmes undertaken by tangata whenua are fundamental to identify and assess the condition of resources and sites of particular significance.
- Effective tangata whenua input into councils' policies and plans is still variable. The proposal being advanced by Environment Bay of Plenty for a proportional representation system to more accurately reflect the region's population in the council membership is a positive, forward-looking initiative in practical democracy.
To the Minister for the Environment:
Prepare a National Policy Statement under the Resource Management Act, for:
- the relationship of Māori and their culture and traditions with their ancestral lands, water, sites, wāhi tapu, and other taonga
- the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi,
to ensure efficiency, consistency, reliability and accountability in the achievement by local authorities and other persons of the purpose of the Act, the sustainable management of natural and physical resources.
To the Ministers for the Environment and Conservation:
Ensure purposeful co-ordination and integration of the various review processes being undertaken of the statutes and systems for environmental and heritage management. Ensure that such integration, and its outcomes in the revised provisions and systems, are communicated to tangata whenua and other key stakeholders.
To the Ministers for the Environment, Local Government and Māori Affairs:
Establish and resource a combined initiative to monitor and report on:
- the environmental outcomes achieved through improved tangata whenua participation in environmental management
- practical opportunities and models for local government initiatives to improve tangata whenua participation in environmental management
- the proposals being advanced by Environment Bay of Plenty to establish a proportional representation system for council membership.
Work with local authorities and Local Government NZ to facilitate strategic training programmes to improve skills and understanding amongst elected councillors, council personnel, resource consent applicants, and tangata whenua.
To all local authorities:
Encourage and invest in appropriate initiatives to improve tangata whenua participation in environmental management, including:
- strategic training programmes and practical guidelines to improve skills and understanding amongst elected councillors, council personnel, resource consent applicants, and tangata whenua
- establishment grants or other assistance for the establishment of iwi and hapū resource management units and for the development of iwi and hapū resource management plans
- identification and facilitation of opportunities for the transfer of council functions to tangata whenua under section 33 of the RMA.