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Amber Craig: ‘You will just colonise our waters again’

Amber Craig previously speaking at a water hui. PHOTO/FILE

“If we continue disconnected … you will just colonise our waters again.”

Rangitane o Wairarapa’s Amber Craig has given a stark warning to the Government if it continues with a facade of co-governance as opposed to the “true” thing.

Craig presented a submission to the Water Services Entities Bill on behalf of the iwi to the Finance and Expenditure Committee this week.

She said without “true” co-governance, proposed entities would “not have the necessary matauranga [knowledge] to protect and enhance our wai [water]”.

“You will just colonise our waters again, we will have solutions that are not holistic in thinking, and we will have more problems for all of us down the track.

“A one-size fits all solution cannot happen here.”

Craig began her submission with a mihi and told members of the select committee about the cultural importance of the Maori creation story.

In Maori tradition, Papatuanuku is the land. She is a Mother Earth figure who gave birth to all things, including people.

“This is not a myth to us; this is where we descend from,” Craig said.

“Our kaupapa [set of values] is about upholding and supporting all of our atua [gods]. Papatuanuku is the embodiment of our taiao – our environment.

“Our moana [sea] is the heart, our awa [rivers] are the veins, and our wai [water] is the blood of Papatuanuku.”

She said Rangitane agreed the status quo could not continue regarding water management.

“We are concerned about the health of our waters and support the bill to provide healthier waters to our people.

“We support the changes in legislation that calls for working with tangatata whenua, whanau, hapu, and iwi early on, as well as the steps to incorporating matauranga Maori [knowledge], and giving effect to Te Mana o te Wai [the vital importance of water].”

But there were multiple parts of the Water Services Entities Bill that Rangitāne did not support, she said.

With more than 40 iwi in Entity C, and only six iwi representatives signalled for the Regional Representative Group, “this will diminish our voice and our autonomy from the conversations about our taonga, our ancestor, our wai”.

“This proposal and act is not co-goverance and removes our tino rangatiratanga [sovereignty] as Rangitane o Wairarapa, and that of our whanau and hapu, from the conversation.

“Entity C has a group of over 40-plus iwi individual having their voices reduced to six positions, maybe seven if we’re lucky.

“This removes our voice from the governance and management space … for us, that is just not valid.”

“We believe the Crown has an obligation to not only listen but honour each of the voices of the iwi.”

She suggested the Water Services Entity boards have a direct relationship with all iwi in the group area and that support should be provided to fund this engagement appropriately.

She also said boards and committees in the water service entities needed to be culturally safe and inclusive environments.

“These types of committees and boards are often unsafe for Maori individuals to participate in, especially when Maori participant numbers are so low,” Craig said.

“It is mandatory that anyone appointed to any of these roles must be culturally safe and culturally trained.

“We have had whanau in many of these positions before who have faced active racism at these tables, and this creates a stressful and wairua-diminishing [spirit-diminishing] experience. We then lose our whanau voices from very critical positions.” – NZLDR

  • Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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