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Fighting for rivers and Maori

Hoana Burgman

Hoana Burgman has been awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Maori and environmental governance. Based in North Canterbury, Burgman whakapapa is Ngai Tahu and Ngati Kahungungu ki Wairarapa.

“My great-grandfather Ihaka Karaitiana married into Ngai Tahu; he and his brother both came down and married two sisters from Otako – two Ngai Tahu women, and one was my great-grandmother.”

She said the link between her and Wairarapa was generations back, but she had visited her lands in Wairarapa.

Burgman said she was overwhelmed when she heard she’d received the award.

“It’s a privilege that someone thinks it [my effort] has been worthwhile. It has to me; it’s just part of me.”

Burgman has been on the Ngai Tahu Tu Ahuriri Runanga executive since 1990, was secretary for 12 years, and has been kaumatua chair since 2016.

She said she had always been involved with the runanga [tribal council], but when the Resource Management Act was introduced in 1992, she put her hand up to represent Te Ngai Tuahuriri.

“I said, ‘oh well, I’ll give it a go’, only because my mother was always so concerned about the environment.

“The first place I ever remember going to was the river.”

Burgman was a founding member of Te Waihora Management Board and was involved in the establishment of a joint management plan for Te Waihora Lake with the Department of Conservation, and later the broader Te Waihora Co-Governance Agreement.

To add to her belt, she was a trustee of Te Kohaka o Tuhaitara Trust from 2006 to 2017, responsible for the restoration and ongoing management of 700 hectares of native coastal wetlands.

Burgman has been credited as a key driver of taking a collaborative approach to Resource Management Act engagement by mana whenua, and she is a founding member of Mahaanui Kurataiao Shareholder Board.

She brought together the five surrounding papatipu runanga in Canterbury to form a unified company to advance kaitiakitanga [guardianship].

Additionally, she helped to re-establish the Tuahiwi branch of the Maori Women’s Welfare League and has been both president and secretary.

Burgman said everything she had done had the environment, rivers, and Maori in mind.
As a child, Burgman grew up by the water, fishing with her family.

As time went by, she watched the much-loved braided rivers degrade until there were very few fish left.

“I tell my grandchildren that my father used just to have string wound around a stick with hooks, throw it into the river, and we’d get three or four hearings all in one go.”

Burgman said her mother would only take her and her siblings to areas where they could find food, be it fish or fruit.
What had been teaming with life and kai [food] has now been destroyed by human-caused pollution.

“We saw this happening 25 years ago, but no one ever listened,” she said.

“All my whanau used to meet at the river, but that doesn’t happen now because they’re so filthy and there isn’t any water in them anyway.”

Burgman said the loss of rivers had affected Maori in every way.

“It’s our whakapapa, our whakapapa goes with the waters, with the rivers.”

She was hopeful for the future with young, environmentally-minded people coming into the mix. “The first place I ever remember going to was the river.”

Burgman was a founding member of Te Waihora Management Board and was involved in the establishment of a joint management plan for Te Waihora Lake with the Department of Conservation, and later the broader Te Waihora Co-Governance Agreement.

To add to her belt, she was a trustee of Te Kohaka o Tuhaitara Trust from 2006 to 2017, responsible for the restoration and ongoing management of 700 hectares of native coastal wetlands.

Burgman has been credited as a key driver of taking a collaborative approach to Resource Management Act engagement by mana whenua, and she is a founding member of Mahaanui Kurataiao Shareholder Board.

She brought together the five surrounding papatipu runanga in Canterbury to form a unified company to advance kaitiakitanga [guardianship].

Additionally,she helped to re-establish the Tuahiwi branch of the Maori Women’s Welfare League and has been both president and secretary.

Burgman said everything she had done had the environment, rivers, and Maori in mind.

As a child, Burgman grew up by the water, fishing with her family. As time went by, she watched the much-loved braided rivers degrade until there were very few fish left.

“I tell my grandchildren that my father used just to have string wound around a stick with hooks, throw it into the river, and we’d get three or four hearings all in one go.”

Burgman said her mother would only take her and her siblings to areas where they could find food, be it fish or fruit.

What had been teaming with life and kai [food] has now been destroyed by human-caused pollution.

“We saw this happening 25 years ago, but no one ever listened,” she said.

“All my whanau used to meet at the river, but that doesn’t happen now because they’re so filthy and there isn’t any water in them anyway.”

Burgman said the loss of rivers had affected Maori in every way.

“It’s our whakapapa, our whakapapa goes with the waters, with the rivers.”

Despite watching her environment degrade around her, she said she was hopeful for the future with young, environmentally-minded people coming into the mix.

She said young Maori, in particular, gave her hope because they and their iwi had seen what had happened to the rivers and environment.

Burgman said what she had seen happen to the rivers near her home was happening to rivers all over Aotearoa, including Wairarapa.

“I do have hope for the future that it will improve.” “The first place I ever remember going to was the river.”

Burgman was a founding member of Te Waihora Management Board and was involved in the establishment of a joint management plan for Te Waihora Lake with the Department of Conservation, and later the broader Te Waihora Co-Governance Agreement.

To add to her belt, she was a trustee of Te Kohaka o Tuhaitara Trust from 2006 to 2017, responsible for the restoration and ongoing management of 700 hectares of native coastal wetlands.

Burgman has been credited as a key driver of taking a collaborative approach to Resource Management Act engagement by mana whenua, and she is a founding member of Mahaanui Kurataiao Shareholder Board.

She brought together the five surrounding papatipu runanga in Canterbury to form a unified company to advance kaitiakitanga [guardianship].

Additionally,she helped to re-establish the Tuahiwi branch of the Maori Women’s Welfare League and has been both president and secretary.

Burgman said everything she had done had the environment, rivers, and Maori in mind.

As a child, Burgman grew up by the water, fishing with her family. As time went by, she watched the much-loved braided rivers degrade until there were very few fish left.

“I tell my grandchildren that my father used just to have string wound around a stick with hooks, throw it into the river, and we’d get three or four hearings all in one go.”

Burgman said her mother would only take her and her siblings to areas where they could find food, be it fish or fruit.

What had been teaming with life and kai [food] has now been destroyed by human-caused pollution.

“We saw this happening 25 years ago, but no one ever listened,” she said.

“All my whanau used to meet at the river, but that doesn’t happen now because they’re so filthy and there isn’t any water in them anyway.”

Burgman said the loss of rivers had affected Maori in every way.

“It’s our whakapapa, our whakapapa goes with the waters, with the rivers.”

Despite watching her environment degrade around her, she said she was hopeful for the future with young, environmentally-minded people coming into the mix.

She said young Maori, in particular, gave her hope because they and their iwi had seen what had happened to the rivers and environment.

Burgman said what she had seen happen to the rivers near her home was happening to rivers all over Aotearoa, including Wairarapa.

“I do have hope for the future that it will improve.”

Grace Prior
Grace Prior
Grace Prior is a senior reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with a keen interest in environmental issues. Grace is the paper’s health reporter and regularly covers the rural sector, weather, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and coastal stories.

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