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A GLOBALLY significant guiding document for Te Urewera is heralding a change in conservation attitudes and a new era for Tuhoe.
Te Kawa o Te Urewera will guide the management of the former national park, which was dismantled and returned to Tuhoe from the Department of Conservation (DoC) in a New Zealand first as part of its Treaty settlement.
 
The 2127-square-kilometre stretch of land, which includes Lake Waikaremoana, was also granted the legal rights of a person under Te Urewera Act 2014, a move regarded internationally as “legally revolutionary”.
“Te Kawa involves a completely different way of looking at the land,” said Tamati Kruger, chairman of Te Urewera Board, which speaks for and represents Te Urewera.
“Te Urewera is a person and we should treat it as such. It is not a property or an asset.”
 
Te Urewera Act has received international praise and recognition, being cited in India this year when the Ganges River was made a legal person, and in similar documents in the Americas.
Te Kawa has been developed over the past two years and sets out the principles that will guide annual priorities and operational management plans under Te Urewera Act, as well as decisions by the Board about activities within Te Urewera.
 
Day-to-day management of Te Urewera is shared between Tuhoe and DoC. Te Kawa was approved this month after consultation and submissions from the community and stakeholders.
 
Mr Kruger and Tuhoe Te Uru Taumatua chief executive Kirsti Luke were invited by Waikaremoana Boating and Fishing Association to present the document in a public talk at Gisborne Tatapouri Sports Fishing Club this week.
 
 “The fact Tuhoe has been separated from Te Urewera for some 70 years has caused some hurt and injury,” Mr Kruger said.
 
“But overall Tuhoe wants to move on and do as much work as possible with other people to bring Te Urewera as a place of joy to a whole lot of people, from overseas, around New Zealand and locally.”
The process will involve completely dismantling the DoC system.
 
“With DoC there was one rule that prevailed — to manage the land so people would enjoy it,” Mr Kruger said.
 
“Te Kawa says we need to manage people. It is people that are causing the problems on the land. People need nature but nature does not necessarily need people.
“Our expectations of the land need to change. We need to take on more responsibility for it, ourselves, individually, as families and as visitors.”
 
Putting the document together involved engaging about 16 different recreational stakeholders including hunting, fishing, tramping and mountain clubs.
 
“It has been a lot of work,” Ms Luke said. “But we know you all have a strong connection to Te Urewera and love doing the same things in Te Urewera we do.
“If we all love Te Urewera we can all play a role in looking after it forever. That is what Te Kawa is all about.”
 
Ms Luke said they wanted Te Kawa to be specific to Te Urewera and not be a “top-down approach”.
 
“The Government is not necessarily the best conservationist. Families, communities, those who love and have respect for Te Urewera, are equally good stewards for the environment.
“DoC’s management applies national standards to regions. Sometimes they are ill-fitting, as the majority of it is based on the South Island, where the bulk of the DoC estate is.”
 
Several questions from the audience of about 50 people were around potential changes to access. Mr Kruger said there was no intention at present to change any access or activities in Te Urewera.
 
“It continues as people have regarded and known it. If there are changes that need to be done urgently, because we sense it is bad for the land, the board can arrange that.
“But radical changes will not be possible without thorough investigation of how it serves the purpose of the Act.”
 
A member of the audience asked about their stance on pest eradication and whether or not it would involve 1080.
 
“We believe conservation should really be around people management for the benefit of the land,” Mr Kruger said. “Don’t blame the possum, blame ourselves. Some Tuhoe are quite fond of 1080 as a quick fix while others are more cautious.
 
“For now, though, the focus is on ground trapping and utilising the innovative solutions around that.”
 
There were no plans for commercialisation, and there were plans to have wilderness areas “as pristine as possible”. Any developments in Te Urewera would have a sustainable focus.
 
They were investigating installing the country’s first “green road”, using wood sap instead of bitumen — a waste product of the petroleum industry.
 
“It seems contradictory to have bitumen in an area as pristine as Te Urewera,” Mr Kruger said. “Not only will we have most beautiful lake on our doorstep, but the greenest road.”
 
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New era for Tūhoe

21 September 2017

A GLOBALLY significant guiding document for Te Urewera is heralding a change in conservation attitudes and a new era for Tuhoe. Te Kawa o Te Urewera will guide the management of the former national park, which was dismantled and returned to Tuhoe from the Department of Conservation (DoC) in a New Zealand first as part of its Treaty settlement.   The 2127-square-kilometre stretch of land, which includes Lake Waikaremoana, was...

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Road access to the Urewera township of Ruatahuna has finally been restored after being cut off for more than a week. Ruatahuna was one of several Bay of Plenty towns completely cut off by slips and flooding caused by Cyclone Debbie, and yesterday it was the last to have its roads reopened.

Whakatāne district mayor Tony Bonne said the roads were still fragile and a lot of work was still needed to get them back to full use.

Residents of Ruatahuna also had to cope without power over the last week.

Radio NZ

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Road access to the Urewera township of Ruatahuna has finally been restored after being cut off for more than a week. Ruatahuna was one of several Bay of Plenty towns completely cut off by slips and flooding caused by Cyclone Debbie, and yesterday it was the last to have its roads reopened. Whakatāne district mayor Tony Bonne said the roads were still fragile and a lot of work was still needed to get them back to full use. Residents of...

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Winding its way through dense forest laced with hidden waterfalls, the Whanganui River is the largest navigable river in Aotearoa, the Māori word for New Zealand. With the passage of the Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Bill in March, the river became the first water system in the world to be recognized as a rights-bearing entity, holding legal “personhood” status. One implication of the agreement is that the Whanganui River is no longer property of New Zealand’s Crown government — the river now owns itself.
 
photo of Whanganui River
Photo by Kathrin & Stefan Marks
In March, the Whanganui River in New Zealand became the first water body in the world to receive legal personhood status.
 
Five days after the Te Awa Tupua Bill, the High Court of Uttarakhand at Naintal, in northern India, issued a ruling declaring that both the Ganga and Yumana rivers are also “legal persons/living persons.” But what does it mean for a river, or an ecosystem to hold rights? The answer may vary from place to place. 
 
The growing global movement for Rights of Nature — or the Rights of Mother Earth as some cultures prefer — seeks to define legal rights for ecosystems to exist, flourish, and regenerate their natural capacities. These laws challenge the status of nature as mere property to be owned and dominated by humans, and provide a legal framework for an ethical and spiritual relationship to the Earth. While recognizing legal rights of nature doesn’t stop development wholesale, it can stop the kind of development that interferes with the existence and vitality of ecosystems. In the last decade, four countries and dozens of US communities have passed laws recognizing “legal standing” for ecosystems.
 
In many cases, legal recognition for the rights of ecosystems reinforces long-held cultural and spiritual beliefs. For the Māori of Aotearoa, like many Indigenous cultures worldwide, there is no separation between humans and everything else. When the Europeans first arrived in the seventeenth century, there was no word for property in the Māori language. Their relationship with the Earth was one of care and responsibility. “Māori cosmology understands we are part of the universe,” said Gerrard Albert, lead negotiator for the Whanganui River iwi (tribe). “The mountains and rivers are our ancestors. Our cultural identity as a people is inseparable from the river — it is more than water and sand, it is a living spiritual being.”  
 
Indeed, the Whanganui iwi are known as the River People, who often say, “Ko au te awa. Ko te awa ko au” translated as “I am the river. The river is me.”
 
Their struggle to protect the river began 150 years ago, when the New Zealand Crown government first began to break treaty promises, violate cultural practices, dam, pollute, and otherwise degrade the river. “Beginning in the 1870s, our iwi began to petition the Crown government over our concerns for the river,” Sheena Maru, iwi project manager for Whanganui River Trust, the governance group for the Whanganui River Treaty Settlement, said. “Determining who owned the bed of the river became the longest running court case in Crown history. In the end, what we were fighting for was Te Awa Tupua, the living spiritual indivisible whole of the river that includes the iwi, all people, and life from the mountain to the sea.”
 
In Aotearoa, the Whanganui River is not the first ecosystem to be recognized in this way. In 2014 the Tūhoe iwi negotiated with the Crown Government to pass the Te Urewera Act, which effectively recognized the “personhood” for Te Urewera, a forested region and former a national park in the heart of Tūhoe traditional territory.
 
Like the Whanganui iwi, what the Tūhoe wanted was to be truly reconnected with the land that is the very source of their cultural identity. Tamati Kruger, chief negotiator of the Tūhoe’s groundbreaking Te Urewera settlement said, “When negotiations began, the Crown had no intention of giving away title to the park. They thought it would be enough to offer us some money and a few seats on the park board.” Knowing the Crown would not cede ownership to the Tūhoe, Tamati’s team suggested that nobody retain ownership of the park land — rather, the land would own itself. This change shifted more than just governance of the former national park — it was also seen as a step toward sovereignty for the Tuhoe people whose identity is inseparable from the land.
 
The Whanganui River and Te Urewera settlements, two truly revolutionary agreements between the Māori and the Crown government, recognize mountains, national parks, and watersheds can be better protected by prioritizing human responsibilities to the whole than they can through regulations that seek to dismantle and segregate fisheries from the riverbeds, for example. Under both settlements, future decisions about projects and development in the areas will be made by a council of two appointees — one Crown and one Māori. “Those appointed to act on [the Whanganui River’s] behalf will have legal obligation to uphold and protect the river's values and health and wellbeing,” Gerard Albert told the media at a press conference following the passage of the Te Awa Tupia Bill.
 
These settlements also include a formal apology from the New Zealand Crown government for historic crimes against the iwi and the ecosystems, and a large redress fund to facilitate new management of the Te Urewera mountain range and the Whanganui River. They also include funds for community education and cultural revitalization that benefit both the pakeha (European New Zealander) and iwi populations.
 
“The Settlement is for the entire community, this is still an idea to be grasped,” explained Hayden Turoa, Te Mana o Te Awa program manager for the Whanganui River Trust Board. “Anybody can apply for funds [through the settlement]. It is about breaking down barriers and bringing the rest of the community into this spiritual understanding.” Along the Whanganui, there are already plans for these funds, including educating and bringing pakeha residents into the Maori worldview in a way that allows everyone to be spiritually and holistically connected to the river, and to learn new ways to care for the ecosystem.
 
From his office overlooking the port city of Wellington, Paul Beverley, a partner at the law firm of Buddle Findlay and a member of the core Crown negotiation team for both the Te Urewera and Te Awa Tupua bills, explained that the Crown was eager not only to pass the agreements, but also to take the next steps for implementation. “The Crown is committed to working alongside Whanganui iwi to ensure the success of this settlement for Te Awa Tupua and for all — not just the Maori.” 
 
Asked whether the pakeha populations, local government, or the Crown were nervous about the implications of ceding property claims, Beverley said, “What has been put in place is a very forward looking framework. I think we’re going to see a springboard for this type of thing. People are already taking next steps voluntarily.”
 
The Maori and the Crown see these new protections as good for business, and ultimately good for the economy. “This legislation recognizes the deep spiritual connection between the Whanganui iwi and its ancestral river and creates a strong platform for the future of the Whanganui River,” Beverley said.  
 
Recognizing the rights of the Whanganui River means that no matter who the actor, corporation, or individual, the law now sees a harm to the river the same way as it would a harm to the tribe or a person. As Cabot Davis, legal director for the nonprofit Movement Rights, added: “It’s not about being anti-business. The thing that is beautiful about it is just how differently decisions will now be made. Conflicts among people who want to ‘use’ the water or land will now have to take everyone else’s needs into account — first and foremost are the needs of the [river] system. Commerce and nature can coexist in a healthy way.”
 
Half a world away in India, it’s not yet clear what legal personhood means for the Ganges and Yumana rivers, but activists think additional protections will ultimately be necessary. The country struggles with high levels of water pollution flowing freely from homes and industry, though water in India is considered sacred. Nowhere more so than the Ganges river, or the Ganga, which provides about 40 percent of India’s water, though the entire watershed is breaking down under the intense strains of use and abuse.
 
The widespread Save Ganga movement in India follows the Gandhian model for peaceful change. A powerful component of that broad coalition is the National Ganga Rights Movement, founded by the Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, who opined, “We breathe the same air that our ancestors did, drink the same water, and are connected to one another by the web of life.” Four years ago, the movement began working with the US-based Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), toward passage of a national Ganges Rights Act, currently under consideration by the Modi administration. This act would provide further protections for the river.
 
“The High Court’s ruling declaring legal personhood for the Ganges is a critical step forward,” Mari Margil, head of CELDF’s International Center for the Rights of Nature, said. “As the court said, national legislation which would recognize fundamental rights of the Ganges and the people of India to a healthy, thriving river ecosystem is ultimately necessary.”
 
Treating ecosystems as property has brought humanity to the brink of climate and ecological collapse at break-neck speed. By contrast, rights-based laws recognize planetary limits and seek to transform human laws to conform with Natural Law. Beyond law, this movement seeks a culture shift away from the mindset that modern Earth is merely a resource available for reckless human use, toward the understanding that the Earth is a living entity governing all life upon it, with inherent rights that can, and should, be protected.
 
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Winding its way through dense forest laced with hidden waterfalls, the Whanganui River is the largest navigable river in Aotearoa, the Māori word for New Zealand. With the passage of the Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Bill in March, the river became the first water system in the world to be recognized as a rights-bearing entity, holding legal “personhood” status. One implication of the agreement is that the...

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All Te Urewera catchments received significant amounts of rainfall from Ex-Cyclone Debbie resulting in many rivers exceeding historic peak flood levels. Road closures has meant access being cut off to some areas in Te Urewera. Visit Whakatane (www.whakatane@govt.nz) and Wairoa District Council (www.wairoadc@govt.nz) websites for updates on the roads into Te Urewera.

Manuhiri looking to spend time in Te Urewera need to take extreme care while interacting with Te Urewera. We advise avoiding routes and tracks where all bridges are needed to cross waterways. Manuhiri should prepare for significant track damage due to slips, tree-fall and bank erosion, and be prepared for impassable tracks.

For those Manuhiri camping in Te Urewera treat all drinking water by boiling it or using water purifying tablets.

Feedback including photos of tracks and short walks can be emailed to tina@ngaituhoe.iwi.nz or dropped off to our staff at Te Kura Whenua, Waikaremoana.

Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk Track -

Is temporarily closed until further notice, with an update due on the 12th April allowing for a full inspection of a range of critical facilities and structures to be carried out. Our Team have identified a range of significant remedial works required, and are working towards opening part of the track as soon as safely possible.

Boating on Lake Waikaremoana -

There is a significant amount of debri floating around the lake, carried down from the rivers and streams - extreme caution is necessary.

Ogilvies, Waimana Valley -

There is a slip off Ogilives and is yet to be assessed by the Council.

Te Urewera Weather

More wet weather is forecast for mid next week for Te Urewera. Visit the Metservice website for weather information for Te Urewera- www.metservice.com.

To be kept up to date go to our website www.ngaituhoe.iwi.nz or follow our Te Urewera facebook page. All those booked to do the Great Walk over the next week contact Te Urewera Visitors Centre on 06 837-803 or 06 837-3900 to make changes to your booking.

Ends

 

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All Te Urewera catchments received significant amounts of rainfall from Ex-Cyclone Debbie resulting in many rivers exceeding historic peak flood levels. Road closures has meant access being cut off to some areas in Te Urewera. Visit Whakatane (www.whakatane@govt.nz) and Wairoa District Council (www.wairoadc@govt.nz) websites for updates on the roads into Te Urewera. Manuhiri looking to spend time in Te Urewera need to take extreme care while...

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In the mid 1800s Crown forces invaded Te Urewera.

It was the first time they used "scorched earth" tactics - raising Tūhoe kāinga at Lake Waikaremoana.

But now the iwi is back - stronger than ever.

Manuhiri Visitor Experience Team Leader Tina Wagner says : "This is the first building we've had here since our people were removed."

Tūhoe signed an agreement with the crown in 2013.

Te Wharehou o Waikaremoana has now been open for nearly two months.

"Although we were physically removed we still had that connection here and we always have had that connection here."

It was built as part of the Living Building Challenge - constructed from non-toxic materials and recycled parts of the former DOC building.

The design features charred walls - in a chilling echo of the history here.

The building doubles as a tribal office and Department of Conservation facility.

Visitor Experience Manager, Derek Brenchley says: "You come to our entrance and we will come to you and tell you our story, you don't just rock up and rip a pamphlet out of the holder and then walk off and only get a small snippet of what you need to know."

And it's a system that appears to have paid off.

"We've noticed an increase in numbers earlier in December than previous years, and right through until after Waitangi weekend."

About three quarters of visitors are North Islanders - but there are also those from much further afield:

"United Kingdom, Australia, Germany and America," Mrs Brenchley says.

By the time summer rolls back around holiday park renovations will be finished

And - the team here says the self-contained units will be as good, if not better, than accommodation found in the city.

NZ Herald

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In the mid 1800s Crown forces invaded Te Urewera. It was the first time they used "scorched earth" tactics - raising Tūhoe kāinga at Lake Waikaremoana. But now the iwi is back - stronger than ever. Manuhiri Visitor Experience Team Leader Tina Wagner says : "This is the first building we've had here since our people were removed." Tūhoe signed an agreement with the crown in 2013. Te Wharehou o Waikaremoana has now...

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Te Urewera, the mountainous homeland of Ngai Tuhoe, the Children of the Mist, spent 60 years as a national park — a brief period really, considering the place still holds evidence of its seabed origins millions of years earlier.

It was disestablished as a national park in 2014, as a result of the Ngai Tuhoe Treaty of Waitangi settlement, and is now administered by the Te Urewera Board, which comprises joint Tuhoe and Crown membership. Long story short, Te Urewera was given its own legislative act as part of the Crown’s settlement with Ngai Tuhoe in acknowledgement of the very real and dense connection and history between the people and the place. Te Urewera is now actually a legal entity, with all the rights, powers, duties and liabilities of a legal person. I know, right?!  Fascinating.

Te Urewera is an absolutely stunning landscape, overflowing with enough lakes, walks and ancient native forests to quench the nature-lust of any hiking addict or outdoor zealot.

But it is also a land so jam-packed with stories of romance, tragedy and heroism that it could easily fill six seasons of an antipodean version of Outlander. Imagine Antonia Prebble, transported back in time into the arms of the brave and charismatic Te Kooti as he evades the villainous Colonel Whitmore. Or maybe she finds herself becoming one of the wives of prophet Rua Kenana just before his Maungapohatu settlement is raided. Television gold!

And that’s just a couple of stories from Te Urewera’s post-colonial history, some of which were laid out by the late Judith Binney in her last ever book Encircled Lands: Te Urewera 1820–1920. None of that even touches the depth of the pre-colonial history, populated with more characters and intrigue than the entire catalogue of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (the book that inspired the TV series Game of Thrones).

But if the coming and goings of the human animal don’t tickle your imagination, how about the roaming patterns of giant reptiles? That’s right, the hunt is on for dinosaurs in Te Urewera. Ngai Tuhoe, GNS Science and Victoria University are on a mission to uncover fossils there. Imagine you were to come across remains millions of years old when trekking through the forest? Well, it’s not as crazy as it sounds. The late Joan Wiffen did just that when she found a toe bone from a theropod dinosaur, the smaller cousin to the infamous T. rex, in the Urewera Ranges. Forget national park . . . try Jurassic Park! Amazing.

Beauty in the mist

Of course, the main reason most people head for Te Urewera is for the breathtaking scenery. It has a disarmingly untouched and isolated feel about it. Mix that with incredibly stunning, panoramic vistas and you will undoubtedly feel that primal communion with nature you probably didn’t even know you were craving.

Even just driving through the middle of Te Urewera between Murupara and Wairoa gives you that sense. It takes a long time and it’s slow going. If you are unused to isolated areas, then there will be moments when you will think to yourself ‘Ummm . . . did I take a wrong turn? This doesn’t feel like a road I should be driving on . . . I feel like I’m really far from anything . . .’ Your heart-rate will then inevitably elevate a little as your instinct to grab your phone takes over your hand. Of course, you know it before you see it . . . but you have to check: no coverage.

My only advice is this: you didn’t take a wrong turn; there’s pretty much only one road in and out. Take a deep breath, turn off your phone (you’re only wasting the battery), sit back and enjoy the ride. This is why you came. That feeling that you are really small and young and the thing surrounding you is really big and old. Accept the new perspective this offers.

You see, part of the beauty of Te Urewera is that it really doesn’t care who you are or what you do for a living. It doesn’t care if you are or aren’t Tuhoe, and it certainly doesn’t care about your stress. It just is. And there’s the magic: that something so beautiful and amazing can be that way without even trying.

Then there’s Lake Waikaremoana, which you will not be able avoid, thankfully. It is a body of water that I could use more adjectives to describe but really, it’s best if you just go there. My words cannot do it justice. The first time you see it, though? If you’re approaching from the Murupara side (my recommendation), it will take your breath away. Here’s a tip: try not to be the one driving. You are up high and the view across the lakes is — well, yeah, like I said, just go.

Where do I sign up?

The thing with Te Urewera is it’s big. There is a lot to see and do. You will probably have to go more than once. Who knows, you might be one of those people, of which there are many, who go back annually.

It is also a place that can be as dangerous as it is beautiful. The Department of Conservation website has all the info on activities open to the public as well as important alerts and safety tips. Make sure you are well informed and well prepared for your chosen activity.

But really, it’s worth it. It is a true taonga in every sense of the word, and here for all of us to experience. All you have to do is decide to go. The custodians of Te Urewera, Ngai Tuhoe, welcome you to share in its majesty. Nau mai, kuhu mai.

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Te Urewera, the mountainous homeland of Ngai Tuhoe, the Children of the Mist, spent 60 years as a national park — a brief period really, considering the place still holds evidence of its seabed origins millions of years earlier. It was disestablished as a national park in 2014, as a result of the Ngai Tuhoe Treaty of Waitangi settlement, and is now administered by the Te Urewera Board, which comprises joint Tuhoe and Crown membership....

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