Tribal leaders slam mayors' Three Waters replacement plan

Some tribal leaders meeting in Taupō are slamming a proposal by three mayors to replace the Government's Three Waters plan.

Auckland's Wayne Brown and two Canterbury mayors joined forces on Monday to announce a different path forward to manage the country's drinking water, wastewater and stormwater. 

But some tribal leaders said it's clear they don't want to share power with Māori through co-governance.

The National Iwi Leaders Chairs Forum in Taupō. Seventy iwi members who've come together to tackle various issues, including the call by the mayors of Auckland, Christchurch and Waimakariri to replace Three Waters with a new plan - which hasn't been received well. 

"I don't know which world they belong to, this is 2022 Aotearoa New Zealand, this is about partnership," Waikato-Tainui chairperson Tukoroirangi Morgan said.

A partnership that Waikato-Tainui knows all too well. Since their Waikato River settlement in 2010, they've been co-managing the Waikato River, which supplies three-quarters of Auckland City's water.

"Seventy-five percent of the water that goes into the city comes from my rohe, from my tribal region. More than 40 percent comes from the Waikato River, the rest comes from the Hunua dams," Morgan said.

Northland iwi Te Rūnanga o Te Rarawa chairperson Haami Piripi was surprised with Auckland Mayor Brown's, stance especially being a Northlander and the ex-Far North District Mayor.

"He surely knows better and I'm really surprised. Well, we hope logic will prevail at the end because we are pursuing a path of logic," Piripi said.

But not all iwi are against the three mayors' proposal. Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, one of 19 iwi groups recognised by Auckland Council, has welcomed it.

"Anything that gives us more voice in issues on our land in central Auckland, we are all for that," Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust deputy chair Ngarimu Blair said.

"Three Waters hasn't done that for us. So we are open to these new ideas from the mayors."

It's clear there's still a long way to go before there's consensus on a way forward for Three Waters.

"We will never be denied, we will never go silently in the night, our voice must be heard at the table and we must take our place, end of story," Morgan said.

Iwi leaders said the thing they're most concerned with in Three Waters reform is ensuring the Crown is willing to meet its obligation as a Treaty partner. 

The question now is whether local mayors and councils will do that too.

Tribal leaders slam mayors' Three Waters replacement plan