Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Bill

Third Reading - Marama Fox, Co-leader of the Māori Party 

Wednesday 15 March 2017 


To view the video click here




Ko te taurawhiri ā Hinengākau ki hōna tungāne, ko Tamaūpoko rāua ko Tūpoho. 


Today, this day of all days, I greet the kuia, Hinengakau, and her brothers, Tamaupoko and Tupoho.


He muka nā te taurawhiri o Hinengakau

We welcome all those who descend from the sacred threads of the interwoven rope of Hinengakau; the rope that binds them together as one.


In a legislative sense, the sacred rope connects all who have descended from Ruatipua, Paerangi and Haunui-ā-Pāpārangi, to take up their customary rights and responsibilities in respect of the Whanganui River.


But in a spiritual sense, te taurawhiri o Hinengakau connects further beyond, to a period when there were close to 200 kainga on the banks and cliffs of the Whanganui River with many more other kainga along the tributaries.


We can know of the life-force of that time through the words left by the late Rangitihi Tahuparae


Ngā manga iti e honohono kau ana,

ka hono, ka tupu, hei awa, hei Awa Tupua

The small streams that run into one another and continue to link and swell until a river is formed; indeed a great river.


Today then, it is our day, to acknowledge the great river, Te Awa Tupua.


On 18th March 1994 the late Atawhai Taiaroa stood at Putiki Marae in his role as Chairman of the Whanganui Māori Trust Board and told the Tribunal that the Whanganui iwi are embarrassed after 118 years of making applications to different levels of government, “this is our tupuna awa, this is our ancestor”.  And to come again today to make the same presentation.   And as such they are saying, this is it.


He referred to the petition of Te Keepa Rangihiwinui on the Timber Floating Bill of 1873, the first named claimant Hikaia Amohia who died over a century later in 1991, and all those before, during and after the passage of legislation that this bill becomes a memorial to. 


Twenty three later, then, finally, this is it.


During that first hearing at Putiki, the people lost one of their kuia, Nanny Lucy – the whāngai daughter of Hekenui Whakarake and sister to Hohepa Hekenui – two of the original Whanganui River Claimants.


Te hunga wairua moves in many ways to remind us of what is important.

In the passing of someone so intimately associated to its origins, this bill wears their tears, it carries their memories, it reflects their dreams. So many have passed, their lives having borne testimony to the stories that brought us here today.


And so in this third reading, I want to dedicate my time to that kuia – and all the kuia who have given so much of themselves to keep strengthening the interwoven rope of Hinengakau for this day to arrive.


Ko te wai anake e rere ana

Ko te whakaaro tahi ki te whakapono

Only the waters flow on.


The historical claims of Whanganui iwi as they relate to the Whanganui River bear the imprint of all those who have cried over the course of this journey.  



In 1895 Mereaina Rauangina and 151 other Whanganui women petitioned

Parliament “to prevent the operation of the law of the Government to remove stones from out of the Whanganui River”. The petitioners objected “so that the Government will not destroy our eel-weirs our lamprey-weirs our whitebait dams and the flood currents of the river.


Seven years ago, the beloved kuia, Te Manawanui Pauro passed away at an incredible 102 years of age.


Her kōrero to the Tribunal about the impact of the gravel extraction taken from the river must not be forgotten.   Gravel extraction which destroyed beds that provided habitats for fish, and ultimately contributed to the depletion of traditional fisheries.


“Ko te tangi a te kuia nei: Ka pewhea aku mokopuna? Ka ngaro ngā kai, ka ngaro te mana me whakaae koe kia riro i a tauiwi nga mana o o tūpuna i roto i te wai.


What will become of my grandchildren? The River stocks will suffer and its mana will suffer if you allow tauiwi to take the mana of our tūpuna.”



In 1996, that same kuia stood at a wānanga in Ranana and told the people


Ko te ngaro tō mita, ka ngaro ō maunga, ō awa, ō tupuna….ki te ako i tō mita, ka hokihoki mai ō maunga, ō awa, ō tupuna

If you lose your language, you lose your mountains, rivers and ancestors.

If you learn your language, you regain your mountains, river and ancestors.


All these messages from our kuia, our wahine rangatira, are important. They strengthen the substance of the framework, Te Pā Auroa nā Te Awa Tupua.


This bill reflects the voices of women – Aunty Joan, Nanny Sophie, Nanny Grace, Nanny Nui, the kuia Julie Ranginui, Aunty Dardanelle, Dame Tariana, Nancy, the grandmothers, wives, mothers, daughters who stood alongside of their men; who gave instructions in subtle and bold ways, who supported the kōrero with karanga and waiata that sung of the spirit of Te Awa Tupua mai i te Kāhui Maunga ki Tangaroa, who sacrificed and compromised and wept and waited.


Their waiata and whakataukī, their karanga and karakia provide other means to understand Te Mana o Te Awa; they help describe the heart and soul from which to interpret Te Mana o te iwi.


Te Ruruku Whakatupua as it is expressed in this Bill represents immense forbearance, compromise and generosity on the part of Whanganui iwi.


It represents a loving legacy of more than 150 years to both protect the Whanganui River, and provide for the special relationship of Whanganui iwi with the River.    And I say loving, deliberately.


One of the anthems of the river people, Auē te Aroha, embodies the challenge issued by the kuia Moe Anaera Ruka: Utaina ki runga i te waka o te ora: in other words: Embark upon the canoe of life.


Papa Anatipa, in his book, Taku Whare shared whakataukī of the marae of Putiki, te rōpū kapa haka o Putiki Māori Club:   Putikitia te aroha : bind together in love


It is an incredibly consistent, compassionate, courage call for unity.  Singing, praying, speaking together in love, ever mindful of the messages left from beyond; to draw upon the māramatanga and the mobilization of the people in defiance of Crown actions in relation to the River.   Pakaitore, 79 days of action, crystallising the anger but also consolidating the resolve of the people to stand strong, through it all.


The kuia, Te Paea Arapata lamented to the tribunal on the loss of customary knowledge:


“..E ngaro ana te mātauranga i o matau nei matua…Ka whakaoti katoa

te ha i au, au te Māori, i te mea ko au te Māori he aroha toku hoa...:


Our mātauranga was in decline... and our essence as Māori was being

extinguished on account of our inherently trusting nature.”


Mr Speaker, Māori culture is a complementary culture, where the voices of women and men, shape our story, provide the depth to our kōrero today.  I have chosen today to focus on the stories of women, but I could just as easily have spoken of their brothers and fathers – both have found physical and spiritual sustenance from the River from time immemorial.   


Our part in the journey – as a select committee – is only a few years out of 150 that the people have been calling for justice.   But while our time immersed in the story is brief, what was undeniable was the profound connection to te awa tupua of each and every one who appeared or presented to the committee on the river’s behalf.  They told us:


Kauaka e kōrero mō te awa, engari kōrero ki te awa

Don’t merely talk about the river, speak to and commune with the river

And so we too, went to the river.  A journey where you felt the impact of decades of gravel extraction, pollution, diversion, the losses and suffering, the delays and denials – and yet still the river flows on.


E ngā iwi o Whanganui it was just over four months ago that I stood before you for the second reading of this Bill and marked a historic occasion, when for the first time in this nation’s history we recognised the Whanganui River, Te Awa Tupua, as a legal identity.


Like the many twist and turns of Te Awa Tupua, the journey to reach the final conclusion of this settlement process for the iwi o Whanganui, has been one of wonder and splendour.


But it has also been tinged with sadness and loss for those who have championed the Wai 167 claim: the late Hikaia Amohia, the late Sir Archie John Te Atawhai Taiaroa, the late Joan Akapita, and many, many others, in fact too many to mention in the time allocated for me to speak.


But what I will say to those who I didn’t mention, their whānau, hapū and iwi remember you and as long as Te Awa Tupua flows so does your legacy.


Mr Speaker, while it is important to acknowledge the significants of this third and final reading.


It is also important that we acknowledge the sacrifice and suffering of Whanganui iwi, who have endured the sustained misuse and exploitation of their ancestral waters over several decades.


Fourteen Whanganui chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi in May 1840, and since that time the Crown has systematically undermined the Whanganui River, the Whanganui iwi, and their interests in the management and use of the river.


History will never be erased or forgotten. But today marks a significant turn in the tide of a new opportunity, a change to the lens through which people interact with, and make decisions affecting, Te Awa Tupua.

And so it is, that today history is made with legislation giving mandate to the enduring concept of Te Awa Tupua - the inseparability of the people and River.   

As we, the Māori Party stand in solidarity with them, we treasure and pay tribute to all those who have carried te taurawhiri o Hinengakau, into this House.   And in doing so we remember the call:


E te iwi Māori puritia kia mau,

Utaina ki runga i te waka o te ora;

Ka hoe ai ki te tauranga


Tēnā koutou katoa



Authorised by Susan Cullen, 5 Gala Street, Waihōpai