Chair Ngā Tāngata Tiaki O Whanganui
Te Awa Tupua – Te Awa O Whanganui
Faced with the realities of colonisation, Te Ati Haunui a Paparangi have fought for a century and a half to maintain a primary relationship with the Whanganui River as a living, integrated and indivisible whole. Form the 1880s some of the first petitions, representations and litigation over the Iwi relationship with the River was for recognition of fishing rights and opposition to destruction of pa tuna and utu piharau.
Having been forced to prove association with the River through narrow, compartmentalised - and foreign - philosophical and legal constructs for over a century, in 2008 Te Ati Haunui a Paparangi began work on a first principles proposition based on Te Awa Tupua (the physical and metaphysical River) and Tupua Te Kawa (the innate values of the River) that stem from kawa - the philosophical, cultural and spiritual world view that has defined the tribe’s relationship with the River from time immemorial.
Thus in March 2017 the Whanganui River became a legal person known as Te Awa Tupua encompassing all the metaphysical and physical elements that make up the River including tuna, piharau and all native fish. The River can now speak for itself and promote, advocate and defend its health and wellbeing. How might it speak for the rights of our freshwater fish?
Gerrard Albert is the Chair of Ngā Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui, the post-settlement governance body for Whanganui Iwi for the purpose of the Whanganui River Settlement. He had a lead role in the Treaty settlement negotiations with the Crown in relation to the Wai 167 Whanganui River Claim, which culminated in the signing of Ruruku Whakatupua, the Whanganui River Deed of Settlement. In addition, he has more than 20 years working experience on environmental and resource management issues relating to Whanganui Iwi and the Whanganui River. Gerrard's first point of reference in all things is the Whanganui River and he has an intimate understanding of the tikanga and kawa of Whanganui Iwi relating to the River. It is those tikanga and kawa which form the foundation for the Te Awa Tupua arrangements in the River Settlement.