Taumata Arowai Māori advisory group

In June this year, Taumata Arowai, the new water services regulator, established its Māori advisory group. Its seven members will work alongside and advise the Taumata Arowai Board on Māori interests and knowledge. The advisory group has adopted the holding title of Rōpū Māori as it and the board agree a more fitting title is needed to capture the partnership and the mana they bring to Taumata Arowai. Rōpū Māori will help us to build our capability to become the water services regulator and to put Te Mana o Te Wai at the heart of our regulatory approach.

One of the core purposes of Rōpū Māori is to help Taumata Arowai to deliver on our obligations to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and to build stronger relationships in our communities. It represents a shift towards a model of partnership between Māori and the Crown.

The intention of this approach is to embed the principle of partnership into the structure and operation of the organisation. It reflects the organisation’s commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

A strong relationship at the helm of Taumata Arowai

In te ao Māori (Māori world view) connection is everything. Having a strong relationship between Rōpū Māori and the board will be essential in navigating the challenges to come. Building trust and creating a shared vision has been a focus over the first few months since the establishment of Taumata Arowai on March 1, 2021.

In July, Rōpū Māori met with the board and leadership team for a combined hui at Te Marua Water Treatment Plant in Upper Hutt, where they toured the facility and discussed their work together.

This joint hui was a great opportunity for the two groups to get to know each other. It was awesome to see them sharing perspectives and goals and starting their journey towards creating a shared vision.

To help enhance mutual understanding and establish synergy between the board and Rōpū Māori, the minister appointed two dual members, Riki Ellison and Loretta Lovel. They will form a bridge between the two groups.

Rōpū Māori are now in the process of deciding on their work programme which will be guided by our establishing legislation. This includes developing and maintaining a framework that provides advice and guidance for Taumata Arowai on how to interpret and give effect to Te Mana o te Wai; and providing advice on how to enable mātauranga Māori, tikanga Māori, and kaitiakitanga to be exercised.

This is no small challenge. Later this year we will look to share more from both the Rōpū Māori and the board on how they are collectively navigating this space.

Seven Rōpū Māori members from across Aotearoa

The members of Rōpū Māori were appointed by Kelvin Davis as Acting Minister of Local Government.

Tipa Mahuta (Waikato Tainui, Ngāpuhi) is a Waikato Regional Councillor, co-chair of the Waikato River Authority, and deputy chair of Counties Manukau District Health Board. She has previously served as deputy chair of Te Whakakitenga o Waikato, a member of the Waikato Conservation Board, and as a director of Tainui Group Holdings.

Bonita Bigham (Ngāruahine, Te Ātiawa) is currently a member of the Taranaki Whanganui Conservation Board, the New Zealand Geographic Board, and is chair of Te Maruata, the Māori Committee of the National Council of Local Government New Zealand. Until recently she was pouuruhi (lead external relations) at Te Korowai o Ngāruahine Trust and was previously a three-term South Taranaki district councillor.

Riki Ellison (Ngāi Tahu, Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Toa Rangatira) is a consultant specialising in resource management and engagement with Māori, working closely with central government agencies, local government, and iwi. In February 2021, he was appointed as a member of the Taumata Arowai Board. He is a member of Kāhui Wai Māori.

Frank Hippolite (Ngāti Koata, Ngāti Tama, Ngāti Toa Rangatira, Ngāti Kuia, Rangitāne, Ngāti Apa) was nominated by the Ngāti Koata Trust. He was previously the general manager at Tiakina te Taiao, the mandated environmental arm of the eight Te Tauihu iwi, the chair of Ngāti Koata Trust, and a resource management consultant. He is currently a senior solicitor at Te Puni Kōkiri.

Loretta Lovell (Ngāti Rongomaiwahine, Ngāti Pāhauwera, Ngāti Kahungunu and Whakatōhea) is a lawyer and environmental commissioner, who is currently a member of the Development Contribution Commissioner Panel and the Environmental Legal Fund Advisory Panel. In February 2021 she was appointed as a member of the Taumata Arowai Board.

Pita Paul (Ngāti Manawa, Ngāti Awa, Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Whare) is currently the managing director of Waiwhenua Associates, and cultural facilitator for Hauora Tairāwhiti District Health Board. He has had a lengthy career in Māori health, including as the drinking water facilitator for Tairāwhiti District Health Board.

Ian Ruru (Te Aitanga a Mahaki, Ngāti Porou, Ngāi Tai, Whakatōhea, Rongowhakaata) is the director of Maumahara Consultancy Services and holds several other directorships (including iwi trusts). He is is a kāhui Māori member of Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge and has a scientific background in marine and freshwater fisheries. He recently led a project between iwi and Gisborne District Council to develop a culturally appropriate way to dispose of mortuary waste.

The Ropu Māori members – Back row: Ian Ruru, Bonita Bigham, Frank Hippolite, Loretta Lovell, Riki Ellison. Seated: Pita Paul and Tipa Mahuta.

This Story is from the September/October issue of Water