5 October 2001 Hon Tariana Turia Speech Notes
10am Friday 5 October 2001
Speech to Network Waitangi conference "The Whanganui River Claim - the cultural and spiritual significance to the Iwi of
the Awa", Palmerston North
E nga iwi, e nga mana, tena koutou. Tenei te mihi atu kia koutou I runga I te kaupapa o te ra, huri atu te po, nau mai
te ao! No reira, tenei au he muka no te taurawhiri o Hinengakau e mihi atu nei kia koutou, tena koutou, tena tatau.
In my korero this morning I want to share with you part of the wairuatanga, the spiritual and cultural values of our Awa
that I have learnt from my Tupuna.
I also want to share with you part of the protracted struggle that our people have had to endure for well over a hundred
and fifty years.
Na wai koe, is figuratively asking who are you or who are your parents¡K and yet is literally asking, whose birth-waters
are you from. This is because the waters of birth establish the identity for members of whanau, hapu and iwi.
It is for this reason that I have always loved the whakatauki ¡K.”E rere kau mai te Awa nui mai I te kahui Maunga ki
Tangaroa. Ko au te Awa, ko te Awa ko au" because it captures the deep relationship that our people have always had with
For uri of Whanganui, the awa is a healer, a kapata kai, a highway and a protector. It is the rope that binds all the
whanau together from the mountain to the sea. It is Te taurawhiri o Hinengakau the plaited rope of our ancestress
Hinengakau. The river is before any other consideration, part of our genealogical constructs and it is this genealogy
which binds the people with the rivers, mountains, lakes, forests and seas.
Our people could swim almost as soon as we could walk. Her shores and waters were our playground.
Swimming all day and sometimes all night long, in and out of season, pitting our skills against each other.
At low tide, high tide, spring tide, knowing where was safe and where was not.
We understood Her moods, Her colours, Her personality, in deep flood and in clean or murky water.
Our Awa Tupua has resided over our tribal boundaries since time immemorial. She knows every community along her shores:
Marae, kainga, wharekai, urupa, wahi tapu, pa tuna, puna and utu piharau.
Our people know where their special kaitiaki live. We hear our Awa Tupua talk with the trees and the birds as they sigh,
sing, moan, groan, creak and cry.
Our Awa has always been a place of ritual and karakia. Our bodies were strengthened in her waters, as were our minds and
We contemplated her vastness, the air and space around her, and thought of her birth, and her ancient origins.
We would be taken to her waters to be blessed and made safe, when travelling far from her familiar shores
She has been the one stable presence in all our lives, from one generation to the next, from time immemorial.
Like a mother, our Awa Tupua fed us with tuna, patiki, ngaore, kokopu, inanga and piharau.
Our people knew where schools of flounder could be found. We knew the right times and the best places to fish.
Following the ancient calendars of the moon and stars, we knew where the glow-worms were, as we looked for bait.
Both men and women fished and tended their hinaki with care. A big catch was shared, hung out to dry, perhaps smoked and
stored in a special whata, or storehouse.
Through her we learnt to conserve and protect, to take only what was needed and to always be mindful of those to come.
Our Awa Tupua was both teacher and classroom. We learnt the seasons, the weather, the tides, light and dark, reflection
We learnt about volume and capacity and measurement and temperature. We learnt of habitat and species, food sources and
We learnt about the mating and rearing behaviour of Whio (blue duck), grey heron, Kawau Pango (black shag),
Pipiwharauroa (shining cuckoo), Kotare and Pukeko, and how they were nourished and sustained in and around her bounteous
Our Awa was our first highway, where canoe, both domestic and war would travel - where river regattas would be held
annually, and these activities continue today through Waka Ama and the Tira hoe waka.
But later paddle steamer and jet boat would come and her waters would be diminished considerably, upsetting her balance
The roads beside the awa are made from the pumice and gravel taken from, in and around her bed.
As children our action songs were about our Awa Tupua, our poi were about our ancestors who were already, here, born of
our maunga and our awa and those that came by canoe from Hawaiki.
Our songs became sites of resistance to the onslaught of colonisation, dispossession and alienation.
When a group of our people recently visited te Kahui Maunga, they were horrified to see that very little of the
headwaters of our Awa are able to flow naturally. They have all been diverted through a series of tunnels, canals,
lakes, both man-made and natural, into other awa and lakes in other tribal regions. The diversion of much of our head
waters to Lake Taupo and the Waikato River was affirmed by Matiu Mareikura as a spiritual affront.
By taking the waters from the headwaters of the awa, the spiritual cord that bound both maunga and awa was severed.
The taking of water from one source and tribal area and transferring it to another tribal area violates tribal
relationships and therefore political harmony between tribes.
For some iwi there is concern that the transferring and mixing of tribal waters from one area to another amounted to
desecration as each had a different life-force.
It is the lack of respect and the assumption of dominance over our awa that has resulted in a sickness of her waters and
in turn has resulted in part, to the poor health status of her uri.
Our awa is as old as the mountains from which she comes and as young as the fresh morning dew. She is ageless, like time
itself, she passes us by everyday, but she will never pass on, like we, her mortal descendants, will pass on. She is
Moutoa, the island, situated below Ranana, was in fact, the first site of resistance. It was where hapu of the middle
and upper reaches fought the colonists and the lower reaches for the retention of hapu land in hapu hands.
Pakaitore was also a site of resistance. Few people associated what occurred there with the land and river claims and
the expression of Whanganuitanga. The focus tended to be on the two acres of land rather than the dispossession and
alienation of hundreds of thousands of acres.
Rarely has an [iwi] river claim been so persistently maintained as that of the Whanganui people. Uniquely in the annals
of Maori settlement, the country's longest navigable river is home to just one iwi, the Atihaunui-a-Paparangi. It has
been described as the aortic artery, the central bloodline of that one heart.
The Atihaunui-a-Paparangi claim to the authority of the river has continued unabated from when it was first put into
question. The tribal concern is evidenced by numerous petitions to Parliament from 1887.
The claim in essence is in four parts.
1. that Atihaunui-a Paparangi has the customary authority, possession and title to the lands, waters, fisheries and
associated taonga, of the Whanganui River;
2. that this was guaranteed to them by the Treaty of Waitangi and has not willingly been relinquished;
3. that the claimed authority, possession and title has been eroded or displaced by Crown laws policies, and practices
inimical to the Treaty; and
4. that they continue to be eroded or displaced by current Crown laws policies and practices.
Underlying these, were more specific claims alleging;
- the expropriation of the riverbed,
- the wrongful acquisition of riparian lands,
- the wrongful imposition of water-use laws,
- the relegation of customary laws,
- the divesting and fragmentation of use, ownership, control and management,
- the destruction of eel weirs,
- the denial of access to and of fishing rights for the river and adjacent ocean, environmental degradation,
- uncompensated gravel extraction and water abstraction
- the construction of works, and
- the deferral of past recommendations.
The claim was bought, by the late Hikaia Amohia and the nine persons of the Whanganui Maori Trust Board who were at the
time its members representing Tama Upoko, Hinengakau and Tupoho."
For too long, we as manawhenua have been treated like just another interest group, like Forest and Bird. It is our legal
and moral right that provides us with jurisdiction over our lands, waters, resources and peoples of our rohe.
As tangata whenua, we are born of and with the land and live with not under, the law of the land.
Because of our unique relationship with the Awa and the indivisibility of the waters from the land this means we have a
responsibility and obligation as uri to give meaning to the whakatauki "E rere kau mai te Awa nui, mai te Kahui maunga,
ki tangaroa. Ko au te Awa, ko te Awa, ko au".
The Waitangi Tribunal Report recommends:
- THAT te Atihaunui-a-Paparangi ownership of the river be recognised in appropriate legislation.
- THAT the Whanganui River Maori Trust Board be the “sole legal Trustee.
- THAT the Whanganui River Maori Trust Board become the sole resource consent approving authority, or a consent
authority alongside the Minister of Conservation, Regional Council or Territorial Authority.
- THAT the Government pays compensation for the taking of water for the Tongariro Power Scheme.
- THAT the Government pays compensation for gravel extraction.
- THAT the Government provides funding to the Whanganui River Maori Trust board for joint management of the River.
- THAT any settlement will protect existing user rights for their current terms and provide for continuing public
Let us first remember those who have died during the struggle and there have been many.
Let us also acknowledge those who continue the struggle.
I’m here to speak not for myself, but for my grandchildren and great grandchildren. If the water continues to be taken
away, what have we got to leave them? What have they got to remind them of who they are? We must return the water to
where it belongs. Whakahokia mai taku Awa tapu nei.
Finally, 3 months ago, Genesis Power applied for a 35 year water right to divert water from the Whanganui river. Iwi
challenged the application and attended hearings at the very venue that Hikaia Amohia was silenced 32 years earlier. So
it seems that our struggle is not likely to end in the immediate future.
The time has come for tauiwi to acknowledge that their rights and obligations were spelt out in te Tiriti o Waitangi. It
is in fact their founding document, not ours.
Our rights were merely affirmed and we have yet to see those rights upheld and given effect to.
Thank you for your attention and presence this morning.
No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.
BRIEF WHANGANUI RIVER CLAIM TIMELINE
- 152 years ago in 1849, the Right of Eel Fishing is reserved to Maori in different streams. In 1877, Whanganui Iwi
objects to Harbour Board regulations that threaten ancient fishing grounds and subsequently destroy the economic base of
- 121 years ago in 1880 Pa tuna, or eel weirs, are destroyed as Government colonists clear Whanganui River for free
navigation by steamers and gold and coal prospectors.
- 119 years ago in 1882 gravel is extracted from the Whanganui River for roads, degrading traditional fishing sites. In
1883 pa tuna continue to be destroyed making way for the steamers.
- 117 years ago in 1884 coal is found at Tangarakau. In 1885 salmon are released into the upper Whanganui River. Steamer
and mail services are also established.
- 115 years ago, from 1886-1888 over 501 Iwi members petition the government to stop steamers destroying pa tuna and utu
piharau, or lamprey weirs. From 1888-1891 the Government continues to drain swamps, clear rapids, and destroy pa tuna.
- 106 years ago, in 1895 Iwi take a claim to the Supreme Court over customary fishing rights. In 1896 The Whanganui
River Trust Board (an agency of the Crown) is established, giving control of the river to the colonists.
- 103 years ago, in 1898 Iwi seek compensation from the Crown for the gravel taken from the awa. In 1903 the Coal Mines
Act of 1891 is amended so that beds of navigable rivers are vested in His Majesty the King.
- 94 years ago, in 1907 the Aotea Maori Land Court rule Iwi are entitled to compensation for gravel removed from the
Awa. In 1913, 196 Whanganui Iwi members petition the Court to halt the taking of riparian land by the Crown under the
Scenic Reserves Act.
- 83 years ago, in 1918 the Whanganui River Trust Board seeks legal advice for the removal of gravel from the Awa. In
1919 the Whanganui River Trust Board declares that Whanganui iwi must not construct new pa tuna.
- 81 years ago, in 1920 settlers propose a system of hydroelectric dams on the Whanganui River. The Whanganui River
Trust Board is granted entitlement under the NZ Statutes to take gravel from the Awa.
- 74 years ago, in 1927 Te Piki Kotuku and others unsuccessfully petition parliament for $300,000 compensation for the
loss of native rights on the Whanganui Awa.
- 70 years ago, from 1931-1937 Whanganui Iwi fund raise for the legal battle to protect their customary rights. In 1936,
Te Rama Whanarere, Te Kiira Peina, Hekenui Whakarake, Titi Tihu and others, lodge a petition to challenge the ownership
of the Awa.
- 64 years ago, in 1937 Titi Tihu and Hikaia Amohia formally object to the introduction of trout by the Acclimatisation
- 62 years ago, in 1939 the Native Land Court’s Judge Brown reaffirms that in 1840 Whanganui Iwi were the "owners" of
the river. In 1944 the Appellate court upholds the Brown decision.
- 53 years ago, in 1948 the Crown appeals against the appellate Court decision to the Supreme Court and seeks to block
the Maori Land Court ruling on the title of the Whanganui River bed.
- 52 years ago, in 1949 Judge Hay rules that the Coal Mine Amendment Act of 1903 had given ownership of the bed of the
river to the Crown. As a result, areas of the riverbed are deemed part and parcel to the sale of adjacent land blocks.
- 51 years ago, in 1950 a Royal Commission of Inquiry is established to determine whether Iwi customarily owned the
riverbed. In 1955 the Court of Appeal, finds that “the bed of the Whanganui River had been owned under the Maori
- 42 years ago, in 1959 Hikaia Amohia formally objects to the headwaters of the Whanganui being diverted. He is ruled
out of the order. In 1960 the headwaters of the Whanganui River are diverted into Lake Rotoaira, then on into Lake Taupo
and the Waikato catchment for hydroelectric power generation.
- 39 years ago, in 1962 the Court of Appeal says that the 1903 Act conveyed the riverbed to the Crown. This decision
closes all legal avenues for Iwi to pursue ownership of the riverbed.
- In 1962 Hikaia Amohia objects again to the diversion and a lack of consultation with Whanganui Iwi. Again, he is ruled
out of order. In 1969 the Taumarunui Borough Council receive annual compensation as a result of the diversion of the
headwaters. Whanganui Iwi received nothing.
- 24 years ago, in 1977 Whanganui Iwi petition the Queen concerning treaty rights to the river. In 1978 Prime Minister
Holyoake advises the proper place for the petition, is the House of Representatives. In 1981 the Minister of Maori
Affairs, Ben Couch, recommends Parliament take no action on the petition.
- 15 years ago, in 1986 the New Zealand Gazette establishes Water Control Orders over the Whanganui River. The Whanganui
National Park is established but excludes the River due to an Iwi Petition. The Minister of Lands promises Iwi
participation in the running of the Park, but fails to deliver.
„X 13 years ago, in 1988 the Whanganui River Maori Trust Board is established to negotiate all outstanding claims
relating to the customary rights of Whanganui Iwi. In 1989 Iwi begin Te Tira Hoe Waka, an annual 2 week pilgrimage that
revisits the sacred sites and marae along the Whanganui River.
- 11 years ago, in 1990 Electricorp's application for a minimum flow regime in the river is appealed by Iwi. The
Planning Tribunal lasts 83 days and results in minimum flow provisions for the Whanganui and Whakapapa Rivers.
„X 10 years ago, in 1991 negotiations with the Crown address a framework for ownership of the river. In 1993 the
negotiations are suspended and the Crown refuses to sign the proposed framework.
- 7 years ago, in 1994 a framework for the creation of three-tupuna rohe runanga is implemented. The Resource Management
Act prompts greater Iwi input into the consent process.
- In 1995 Whanganui Iwi occupy Pakaitore for 80 days, and then commemorate the event each year.
- 4 years ago, in 1997 Judge Andrew Becroft recognises aboriginal and Treaty rights to customary fisheries. In 1999 Te
Runanga o te Awa Tupua O Whanganui is officially formed. This Runanga is recognised as the authority responsible for iwi
- The then Minister in Charge of Treaty Negotiations, Doug Graham assures the split up of Electricorp NZ will not affect
the rights or interests of Iwi. In June 1999, the Waitangi Tribunal releases the Whanganui River Report and confirms
that the Maori text of the Treaty guarantees the rangatiratanga of Iwi.
- 1 year ago, Nga Tangata Tiaki are appointed as the Iwi executive to begin rebuilding an Iwi infrastructure. Hui are
held with Ngati Tuwharetoa, Ngati Rangi and Whanganui about returning the waterways to their natural flow. A Whanganui
River Claim negotiation team is formed.
- 12 months ago, the Resource Consent Committee postpones hearings for the Whanganui River and its contributories to
June 30th. Genesis Power and the Whanganui River Maori Trust Board agree.
- 8 months ago in March 2001, the Crown, Whanganui District Council and Te Atihaunui-a-Paparangi vest Pakaitore as a
historic reserve. A joint Board consisting of Council, Iwi and Crown representatives is formed to manage the reserve in
accordance with the Reserves Act 1977.
- In March, the Prime Minister Helen Clark indicates that the government will commence discussions on the Whanganui
claim in January 2002. Months later Waimaria Erueti is appointed as the Claims Manager.
- Whanganui Iwi travelled to te Kahui Maunga to witness first hand the diversion of the Whanganui's headwaters. Now much
of the Whanganui's waters actually come from other rivers, including the Whakapapa.