MEDIA RELEASE 15 March 2017
Embargoed until completion of third reading of Te Awa Tupua Bill
E rere kau mai te Awa nui mai i te Kahui Maunga ki Tangaroa
Ko au te Awa, ko te Awa ko au
(The great river flows from the mountains to the sea
I am the River and the River is me)
Whanganui Iwi have today closed the book on over a century-and-a-half of struggle for appropriate recognition for the
Whanganui River, and appropriate acknowledgement of their longstanding relationship with it.
Over 200 descendants of Whanganui Iwi witnessed Parliament pass the Te Awa Tupua Bill into law, which gives the river
legal personality and standing in its own right and enshrines in law and protects its rights and innate values.
“Since the mid-1850s Whanganui Iwi have challenged the Crown’s impact on the health and wellbeing of the river and those
who lived on it, and have fought to have their rights and their relationship with the River recognised,” said Gerrard
Albert, the Chairperson of Nga Tangata Tiaki o Whanganui.
“Eighty years ago Whanganui Iwi started what was to become the longest running court case in New Zealand history over
who owned the bed of the river. It has been a long, hard battle.
“We have always believed that the Whanganui River is an indivisible and living whole – Te Awa Tupua – which includes all
its physical and spiritual elements from the mountains of the central North Island to the sea.”
Mr Albert said the passing of the Te Awa Tupua Bill and the legal recognition of the Whanganui River with its own legal
personality reflects this.
Te Awa Tupua will have its own rights and innate values and its own voice of representation. In the near future the
Crown and Iwi of the River will jointly appoint two persons to the role of Te Pou Tupua; who will be charged with
upholding the River’s interests and protecting its health and wellbeing.
“I acknowledge the seven iwi whose collective mana is represented by Te Awa Tupua and who were represented at Parliament
today. I look forward to us all working together. 2
“This new legal status will be central to future decision-making,” said Mr Albert.
“It binds the Iwi of the river, the Crown and the many other communities of the Whanganui River to work together for the
ultimate benefit and wellbeing of the River.”
Mr Albert said there is still a great deal to be done to give form and function to Te Awa Tupua and Whanganui Iwi looks
forward to working closely with other iwi, local government, the Crown and other parties with an interest in the future
of the River.
“It has taken us a century-and-a-half to get to this point. We will take a steady, calm and methodical approach to the
“While today we close the book on this part of our history, tomorrow we start writing a new one.”
Ngā manga iti, ngā manga nui e honohono kau ana, ka tupu hei Awa Tupua
(The small and large streams that flow into one another and form one River)