NgÄi Tahu has lodged a statement of claim in the High Court at Christchurch seeking recognition of its rangatiratanga over the freshwater in the NgÄi Tahu takiwÄ (area). Its statement of claim is to address the ongoing degradation of awa (rivers) and moana (lakes) caused by environmental mismanagement.
Kaiwhakahaere Lisa Tumahai says: “For generations we were excluded from our place as kaitiaki, guided by centuries of wisdom and knowledge handed down by our tupuna, in protecting the health and quality of the wai (water). For too long, governments have talked about addressing these issues but have made piecemeal progress. That is not enough. Now is the time to act.”
NgÄi TÅ«Ähuriri Upoko Dr Te Maire Tau says: “Successive governments have mismanaged freshwater. The results are evident in the condition of rivers, lakes and streams throughout Canterbury, Otago and Southland.”
NgÄi Tahu seeks to compel the Crown to address these issues in partnership with the iwi.
Rangatiratanga over water means NgÄi Tahu has rights, responsibilities and obligations relating to the freshwater in its takiwÄ, including doing what it can to stop the degradation of waterways and the environment.
“This is also a matter of tribal survival – our NgÄi Tahu practice of mahinga kai is dependent on healthy waterways. The current law is first in, first served, leading to severe over-allocation. It comes from a perspective of water as a resource to be extracted, often well beyond users’ needs. It does not put the science, or the health of the waterways first and on which our own health depends,” Dr Tau says.
“We have tried to engage with the Crown on these issues without success. We agree with the Waitangi Tribunal in its freshwater inquiry stage 2 report last year that progress on the recognition of our rights, responsibilities and obligations to freshwater in our takiwÄ now requires a test case in the courts,” says Ms Tumahai.
The case is brought by 15 traditional NgÄi Tahu leaders from across the takiwÄ, and Te RÅ«nanga o NgÄi Tahu represented by Kaiwhakahaere Lisa Tumahai.
“NgÄi Tahu views this action as a matter of public good. We want to work together with all South Islanders to find solutions. The pollution affects us all. We have a generation of New Zealanders who have not been able to swim in our rivers,” Ms Tumahai says.