Water New Zealand is encouraging local governments to form partnerships with iwi to co-manage natural resources.
It comes as Ngati Porou and the Gisborne District Council form an agreement for joint management of the land and Waiapu River under the Resource Management Act (RMA).
Water New Zealand chief executive John Pfahlert said it was the first agreement of its type since the provision was made to the Act 10 years ago.
He said iwi may have traditionally felt left out in terms of the way the RMA delivered its decision making, and said this would change for Ngati Porou.
Mr Pfahlert said, in conjunction with officials, the iwi would be involved in applications for taking water and setting limits on pollution or nutrient levels in the river.
He said Ngati Porou would feel more empowered and hoped more councils would see the benefit in working with other parties to make decisions.