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Māori engagement on water makes history

Published: 9 August 2019

Auckland Council’s recent water future consultation saw the highest levels of Māori engagement on any council consultation; 18 per cent of the more than 7000 submissions received were from people identifying as Māori.

Auckland Waters Portfolio Manager, Andrew Chin says the high response rate reflects the strong interest Māori communities have in water.

“The responses reflected the breadth of ways in which Māori relate to water – as a food source, as a tupuna, as a space for recreation, as a life-sustaining force for all things.”

Our Water Future was a discussion document that outlined the key water issues for Auckland in the future, as the region grapples with urban growth, limited water storage, ageing infrastructure and long-term pollution of some waterways and beaches.

Mana whenua and Māori community partnerships

"The council’s partnerships with mana whenua and Māori community networks have been critical to achieving these numbers," says Caitlin Borgfeldt, manager of the Māori Engagement Initiative at Auckland Council.

"Partner organisations such as Te Ora o Manukau South Auckland collective, Te Whanau Waipareira, Hapai Te Hauora and Para Kore ki Tāmaki zero waste led engagement in their networks and made a huge impact on the council reaching Māori with this engagement.

"Mana whenua and Māori communities also supported live-streamed events, with Radio Waatea facilitating."

Public engagement

While the high levels of Māori engagement in the water kaupapa were excellent, it also came with a huge responsibility for the council to work hard to ensure that the feedback is taken on board.

“We will now work closely with Māori and the wider community to define exactly how western science and mātauranga Māori principles can co-exist," Andrew says.

Auckland Council will work with mana whenua and reach out to marae, kura and community groups across Auckland to investigate how to develop projects that will make the water strategy more tangible for communities.

Next year will bring a round of public engagement on the water strategy itself.

“Water is important to everyone and it’s essential that we get as many people as possible involved in this conversation.”

Read more: Environment Community

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