E rere kau mai te awa nui. Mai i te kāhui maunga ki Tangaroa. Ko au te awa. Ko te awa ko au.
“The Māori Party acknowledges today the unbreakable strength of all those who live by the tribal anthem, “ko au te awa, ko te awa ko au” in bringing to fruition the Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Iwi Settlement Bill) which passed its First Reading in the House today” says Marama Fox, Co-leader of the Māori Party.
“We recognise the perseverance, the discipline and the faith of Hinengākau, Tamaūpoko, Tūpoho, Tamahaki, Uenuku; the Tūpuna rohe groups of Whanganui Iwi who have endured the longest campaign of litigation to see the river protected and the relationship of the iwi and hapū acknowledged”she says.
Māori Party Co-Leader Te Ururoa Flavell says: “Whanganui iwi first petitioned the Crown back in 1870 and nearly 150 years on, the bill has had its First Reading in the House.
“From the passage of this legislation, Te Awa Tupua will be recognised as a legal person. Reflecting the view of the Whanganui River as an indivisible and living whole, Te Awa Tupua will have its own legal personality with all the corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a legal person. This is world leading legislation and we congratulate the architects of such a ground breaking piece of work” he says.
“Ultimately, the river is a site of ritual and karakia, a sanctuary where the people come to be cleansed, to come right. There is a whakataukī amongst the people of the river, “Kauaka e kōrero mō tō awa, engari me kōrero ki tō awa” says Marama Fox, Co-Leader of the Māori Party.
“Just as the waters of the Whanganui and the Ongarue meet at Ngapuwaiwaha Marae in Taumarunui, the people of Whanganui have always come to the river to talk, to gather, to pray, to cleanse.
“It is only right therefore that the settlement will ensure that the Crown does not own the river bed, but that the river will own itself,” she says.
“In giving evidence during the Claims hearings, the late Niko Tangaroa said: “The river and the land and its people are inseparable. And so if one is affected, the other is affected also. My father, mother and our tupuna lived on the Whanganui River. They knew the river well. The river is the heartbeat, the pulse of our people”.
“Māori Party Co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell paid tribute to Whanganui leaders, some who have since passed on.
"As we remember the legacy of the multitudes of the Whanganui Iwi from the mountains to the sea who led petitions, litigation and claims over the past century and more, we feel the heartbeat of the Whanganui River pulse that much stronger today.”
“This is their time – and it is yours - Ngā manga iti, ngā manga nui e honohono kau ana, ka tupu hei Awa Tupua,” he says.