24 Aug 2008

River clean-up part of $300m Treaty settlement

6:59 pm on 24 August 2008

The Crown and Tainui have signed a Treaty of Waitangi settlement for the Waikato River worth more than $300 million.

More than $200 million will go to a trust which will fund a clean up of the Waikato River, with the Crown giving $7m a year for 30 years.

Another $20m of the settlement will go directly to Tainui and the rest to other restoration and clean up operations.

In the settlement deed, the Crown acknowledges the rights denied to Tanui after the Waikato land invasions of the 1860s and gives Tainui first right of refusal on the Huntly power station and coal reserves.

Hundreds of people were on the banks of the Waikato River for the signing at Turangawaewae Marae on Friday.

The river claim was excluded from the 1995 land settlement given to Waikato-Tainui. Negotiations started at the end of 2005, with a draft agreement signed in December last year.

Tanui negotiator Tukuroirangi Morgan says negotiations continued until the last minute but he is excited about the result.

"We were once a spectator in the process but we are now truly an equal partner with the Crown in relation to the protection of restoration of our ancestral river, the Waikato," he says.

The Treaty Negotiations Minister Michael Cullen says it has been hard work getting to the deal but the signing was an emotional moment.

He also says Tainui had a bottom line in terms of what the Crown should contribute.

Mr Cullen says the co-management of the Waikato River is a new move and the settlement with Tainui could set the standard for future claims.

He says the deal could be replicated in other river claims and is likely to set a trend which could see future settlements being about more than money.

Groups will be able to apply for funding for clean up projects from the trust, which will be jointly run by Tainui and the Government.

Plea for Crown to pay costs

A Waikato regional councillor and former Federated Farmers representative says he hopes Government funding will cover the costs of cleaning up Waikato River, so no further money will be needed from ratepayers and farmers.

A new Waikato River Statutory Board will be established covering the lower half of the river, with half of the board's representatives to come from Waikato-Tainui and half from local government.

Peter Buckley, chairman of the regional council, Environment Waikato, says the agreement leaves the question of what statutory environmental management powers might be transferred the new board.

He says no further costs should come back to regional councillors or ratepayers, with the full amount taken up by the Crown.

Mr Buckley says the council may need to change its long term community plan to accommodate some of the interests from Tainui, as well as reviewing the regional policy statement.