Ownership and continued freedom of access to our lakes and rivers are growing issues, particularly as a result of claims made under the Treaty of Waitangi (see NZ Canoeing 99.1). I recently wrote, on be-half of the NZRCA, to the Minister Responsible for Treaty Negotiations (the Rt Hon Sir Douglas Graham), to inform him of kayakers' very strong interest in the present debate and the Association's expectation that it will be consulted where freedom of access to New Zealand's lakes and rivers may be affected by the Crown's negotiations.
My letter pointed to the Association's sincere dedication to two important principles: (1) the need to sustain New Zealand's rivers; and (2) the need to retain the ability of present and future generations of paddlers to continue to use our rivers freely. At the same time, the Association appreciates and respects the rights and associations of other groups, including other river users, to New Zealand's water and waterways. Wherever possible, we have encouraged a co-operative relationship with other river user groups, as our rivers are a shared and precious treasure. River protection and freedom of access must be absolutely guaranteed.
In reply, the Minister stated that he was now aware of our concerns, and
[the] Government has determined that redress involving these resources should have minimal impact on public and commercial access, rights and uses, but that
Treaty negotiations are bilateral processes conducted between the Crown and claimants. Because of this the Crown does not consult with third parties over the settlement of particular negotiations before agreements in principle are concluded [although] the Crown does endeavour to represent and protect the interest of all New Zealanders..
Interesting! From here, your Executive has committed to maintain the communication between the next Minister Responsible for Treaty Negotiations (Sir Douglas is retiring at this election). Our focus will be to bring kayakers desire for continued freedom of access to their attention.
Letter sent to the Minister in Charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations:
28 July 1999
Rt Hon Sir Douglas Graham
Minister in Charge of Treaty Negotiations
Dear Sir Douglas
The New Zealand Recreational Canoeing Association (NZRCA), member canoe clubs and individual members are potentially affected by recent Waitangi Tribunal (Te Ika Whenua and Whanganui claim) recommendations, and the subsequent national debate, concerning the future ownership and management of lakes and rivers.
The NZRCA is the national body representing New Zealand's recreational canoeists and kayakers, and is equipped with the purpose of preserving New Zealand's rivers and lakes for people to enjoy safely. The NZRCA has no commercial interest in the management of these waterbodies.
The scenic and recreational values of New Zealand's lakes and rivers are significant. The Association and its forebears have consistently advocated their protection and availability for recreation. As such, the Association continues to be an active and credible participant in national water conservation orders (recently the Mohaka, Buller and Kawarau), water right renewals for hydro facilities (recently the Waitaki, Mangahao, and Waikaretaheke), and nationally important resource management plan and consent application processes. The Association also facilitates national surveys to measure the use and value of particular rivers.
All work by the Association is done on a voluntary basis, and is driven by a sincere dedication to two important principles: (1) the need to sustain New Zealand's rivers; and (2) the need to retain the ability of present and future generations of paddlers to continue to use our rivers freely.
At the same time, the Association seeks to appreciate and respect the rights and associations of other groups, including other river users, to New Zealand's water and waterways. Wherever possible, we have encouraged a co-operative relationship with other river user groups. To date, this relationship has been enhanced by nearly all members of all races and immigrant cultures of New Zealand society holding the deeply held view that rivers should not be "owned" by any group. The body of law governing the management of New Zealand's rivers is also a significant improvement on other models, including the iniquitous regime of riparian rights in Britain.
Recent discussions of changes in ownership and/or freedom of access to rivers and lakes in this country to resolve Treaty grievances are regarded with serious concern by the Association. Waterbodies frequently used by kayakers and affected by Waitangi Tribunal claims include the Whanganui and the Mohaka Rivers.
I understand that you and your Government have considered these issues. In a recent speech to the Annual conference of Australian and NZ Agricultural and Resource Economics Societies, you state:
The government does not accept that Maori have an interest akin to ownership in rivers. The water is free from ownership by anybody. The government accepts that Maori have a special interest in these resources and any settlement where there is an issue will take that into account in a meaningful way but the Crown must retain the ability to act in the best interest of all New Zealanders at all times.
The Association supports this view. However we also accept that the Treaty responsibilities of both the Crown and Maori are important, and support application of the principles of recognition and redress for past Treaty grievances, wrong-doings, and losses.
There may be options to give effect to tribal identity and restore the mana of Iwi with respect to rivers, without relinquishing existing Crown ownership and control of rivers. Symbolic acknowledgement of tribal manawhenua, combined with carefully defined co-management in partnership with the Crown, may be a potential solution.
We would, however, be deeply concerned at any proposal to limit hard won access rights to the nation's rivers, and/or any proposal to erode the "nobody owns a river; we all do" principle, referred to above. A number of legal, financial and practical reasons also mitigate against attempting to dismantle the existing body of law with regard to water bodies. Handing a river over to a single group may prompt calls for similar allocation to other interests. Any such moves may frustrate the river protection and freedom of use we currently enjoy.
Our rivers are a shared and precious treasure. Their future protection and freedom of access must be absolutely guaranteed. The New Zealand Recreational Canoeing Association has an important interest in their management. We therefore anticipate being consulted by you on issues affecting their future ownership and/or management.
I look forward to hearing your views on these matters.
Please note that this letter has been forwarded to Messrs Maanu Paul and Archie Taiaroa for their information, and to seek an opportunity to discuss these matters with them also.
cc: Hon Georgina Te Heu Heu, Associate Minister in Charge of Treaty Negotiations
Response from the Minister
The following response was received from the Minister in Charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations: