Experts explain what co-governance is and why New Zealanders shouldn't be 'afraid' of it

As the debate over co-governance continues, experts are explaining what it means to them and other New Zealanders and why there's no reason to be "afraid".

In a special episode on Monday night, The Hui delved into the co-governance debate and discussed what shared power looks like in contemporary Aotearoa.

For Tukoroirangi Morgan, chairperson of Te Arataura, who helped spearhead the iwi's Waikato River settlement claim, he said co-governance is about equal numbers working together with treaty partners.

"In this instance, there's a mix of commercial industry representatives as well as councillors. So this is about an opportunity for the river iwi to have their say, to make meaningful and significant decisions about the health and wellbeing of the longest river in this country, the Waikato River," he told The Hui.

"Forty percent of our river goes into Auckland - it has for some time. So for us, this is about a treaty relationship that's an enduring partnership, that's built on trust and confidence to do one thing: to work cohesively and collectively to try and improve the health and wellbeing of our tupuna awa."

Ben Thomas, who is a public relations consultant and former press secretary for then-Minister for Treaty Negotiations Chris Finlayson, said the emotional reaction and fear of co-governance comes from it being unknown.

"People don't know, or they think they don't know, what co-governance is, and people are afraid of new things. It's actually pretty understandable," he told The Hui.

"We've been through this before. When I was working for Finlayson down in Wellington, we went through this with the first round of co-governance, or co-management, agreements for natural resources… You would have comments from these scared lobby groups worried that it meant they were going to be cut off or people were going to lose something."

Thomas said the fear of that abated and much more significant co-governance agreements were signed "without any public alarm" - "and the reason is because nothing happened".

"In terms of the everyday person's experience of their lives and of their participation, nothing really changed from their perspective. So it became harder and harder for opponents to whip up fear," Thomas said.

"Now it's being expanded into this wider area, and so there's new opportunities to alarm people… There are a lot of New Zealanders who don't understand that when we're talking about co-governance with iwi, we're not talking about some village in the middle of nowhere, these are sophisticated entities who have strong track records."

Watch the video above.

Made with support from Te Māngai Pāho and the Public Interest Journalism Fund.