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It should be talking about us . . .

Opinion Piece

A report in yesterday's Gisborne Herald of a deal between the Government and the Wairarapa regional authority to help finance the investigatory stages of new water storage facilities might be overlooked by most readers, and conveniently by our own strategic planners and council.

It shouldn't be, although the reasons our leaders would be reluctant to acknowledge its existence are patently obvious. If l were them, l would be hanging my head in shame for having failed to even consider negotiating similar assistance for this region when it was on offer.

After all, the threats to the economic wellbeing of both regions due to the onslaught of climate change are so much alike it isn't funny, and the limited resources available in defence against these threats are also remarkably similar.

In fact, you could rewrite the Herald article again only changing the place names to include Tairawhiti ones and it would read just as well.

In other words, the report could have and should have been about us.

If we were to enquire of our “spatial planners” why it wasn't, my guess is that one of the issues they would cite is local Maori interests playing hard ball over water usage negotiations, while trying to extract a deal that includes water ownership rights clauses.

My response would be that this issue is too important to our survival for it to be held up by such endless arguing over something that could be settled amicably, albeit in a somewhat different form than that currently under discussion.

I believe we should be talking about changing the way the freshwater use consents are administered, and by whom.

The Treaty of Waitangi infers that the original concerns expressed by iwi leadership at the signing was that they would retain equal access to the natural life-sustaining resources they were using at the time — namely fresh air and water and traditional food-gathering sources — and that the Crown would protect those access rights under the partnership deal they entered into.

So, l can't see why we cannot sit down together and set up an agreement that guarantees equal adminstrative oversight opportunities for both Maori and Pakeha.

If that means taking the authority away from local government and placing it in the hands of a committee or board selected from local residents, l say let's do it.

The users of the water resources, both urban and rural, need certainty that their supplies are unpolluted, sustainable and reliable.

A redesigned water storage and delivery system, and administrative authority, should be capable of delivering all three.

Surely there is enough goodwill out there to enable us all to work towards a common goal.

In doing so, and possibly used as a motivating force, we should be mindful that the current Government — the one making all this possible — is, like its predecessors, itself vulnerable to the vagaries of the voting public and is currently remaining in office by virtue of the Prime Minister's well-earned popularity.

It wouldn't pay to test even that by wasting the opportunity her Government provides. The potential elevation of Simon Bridges to the premiership later this year could see the removal of many current options.

There is much at stake.