Waikato Regional Council has won a prestigious national award for its transfer of specific water quality monitoring functions to the Tūwharetoa Māori Trust Board.
The award winners were announced at a gala dinner of Taituarā – a national organisation for local government professionals – in Wellington last week.
Waikato Regional Council took the top spot in The Buddle Findlay Award for Bicultural Leadership, which recognises programmes, projects or initiatives that demonstrate outstanding results from working in partnership with Māori.
The council won for transferring summer bathing beach, regional rivers, rainfall and groundwater quality monitoring within the Lake Taupō catchment to the trust board.
It’s the first iwi authority in Aotearoa New Zealand to have functions transferred to them by a council.
The judges commended the council and trust board for their leadership in overcoming the practical barriers to transfers in this way.
“It shows the results of out of the box thinking and a huge investment of mutual respect and trust,” the judges said.
Waikato Regional Council Chair, Russ Rimmington said he was “honoured and proud” to receive the award on behalf of councillors, as well as the staff who had worked hard on the project.
“Three years ago, we embarked on a historic journey alongside the trust board to set up a new, innovative approach to resource management,” he said.
“The result is a framework that enables iwi to be directly involved in state of the environment monitoring alongside a council, and a first of its kind in Aotearoa New Zealand.
“This award is a testament to how local and iwi authorities can work together to realise a shared goal of protecting the environment for the benefit of all people.
“For us at Waikato Regional Council, it’s also a symbol of our growing relationship with the trust board, as well as iwi throughout our region, and the importance we attach to these relationships.”
He urged the council and every other local authority to, “take what we’ve done and go further. Make bold decisions. Develop future-focused solutions. And share this responsibility with iwi. After all, we are stronger together.”
Tūwharetoa Māori Trust Board CEO, Shane Heremaia says the transfer of water quality monitoring functions to Ngāti Tūwharetoa under section 33 of the Resource Management Act was ground-breaking.
“We congratulate the Waikato Regional Council on the recognition of their work around the transferral of water monitoring functions on Lake Taupō to the Tūwharetoa Māori Trust Board,” Mr Heremaia said.
“The work was pioneering as the first transfer of functions from a council to an iwi authority under section 33 since the Resource Management Act was enacted 30 years ago.
“It’s an important step in the right direction toward effective power-sharing between local government and iwi.”
The LGFA Taituarā Local Government Excellence Awards are held annually and recognise excellence and innovation in local government management.