The future of the Kaipara Harbour is back under the spotlight after the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, Andrew Little, led a delegation on a seaborne visit accompanied by Kaipara and Auckland mayors and senior by iwi representatives to assess settlement claims.
The Kaipara Harbour and its catchments are currently part of a Ngati Whatua treaty settlement. While most of the iwi’s historical claims have been settled, the remaining claims are yet to be finalised under a draft Memorandum of Understanding between Ngati Whatua and the Crown.
“The visit was a Treaty of Waitangi site visit where the iwi provided cultural context, economic and environmental impact reports to the minister,” said Mr Little’s press secretary, Jodi Ihaka.
“The party included councillors and Iwi representatives. And as the settlement has a co-governance arrangement with local councils, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff and Kaipara Mayor Dr Jason Smith and some councillors from both groups attended the visit.”
Following several hours touring the harbour after boarding a charter vessel at Mangakura, Mr Little said the Crown has been in negotiations with Te Runanga o Ngati Whatua (Te Runanga) for several years for the settlement of remaining Ngati Whatua claims.
“The Runanga has a strong focus on the Kaipara Moana, which has traditionally been a ‘food bowl’ and sustained the iwi on its shore economically, culturally and spiritually. The Runanga is coordinating the input of several groups with interests in the harbour — collectively known as Kaipara Uri.
“In 2014 the Crown and Te Runanga signed a framework agreement, which set out the intention to establish a Kaipara Moana body, with equal iwi and council membership. Its aim is to provide for greater involvement of Ngati Whatua in decisions over the Kaipara Harbour. Similar arrangements have been provided in other treaty settlements and have been beneficial in restoring mana and improving input into decision-making,” Mr Little said.
Negotiations over the Kaipara Harbour were paused until 2017. The Crown reached an Agreement in Principle with the Runanga on other issues last year and attention has now returned to the harbour.
“The site visit was an opportunity for me to meet with iwi and local authorities, hear their aspirations for the harbour and see first-hand the condition of the harbour.
“By area, the harbour is one of the largest in the world — but it’s also clear the harbour is facing some serious challenges — for example, it’s heavily affected by sedimentation, and that’s of great concern to Kaipara Uri. They have a vision for a healthy harbour.
“The site visit was spectacular, informative and revealed the aspirations of the iwi and all concerned to provide a healthy harbour. My next step is to discuss these matters with my ministerial colleagues.