Manawatu iwi Muaūpoko celebrates a landmark occasion today following findings from the Waitangi Tribunal that the Crown's actions contributed to the pollution of Lake Horowhenua and Hōkio stream.
Punahau, otherwise known as Lake Horowhenua was once the center of a rich wetland ecosystem, but after years of neglect it was dubbed the 'lake of shame'.
Between 1952 and 1987 treated sewage from Levin was dumped into the lake. The report states in the early 1900's the Crown turned the Lake to a public recreation reserve under the control of a domain board without the full agreement of the iwi.
CE of Muaūpoko Tribal Authorities Di Rump says “Very importantly for us is the absolute vindication of how we feel we have been treated as a people around Lake Horowhenua and the waterways. It’s very clear from the tribunal report that they acknowledge the wrong doing of the crown that’s been completely implicit in the extreme pollution that has happened to Lake Horowhenua and the waterways.”
She says “At that time the Crown specifically promised it wasn't implicit, they specifically promised they would never degrade or pollute the lake and in the 50s 60s 70s 80s and beyond. We feel they've basically stood by and allowed that to happen so we now have our precious waterways and our precious taonga that has been degraded to the tipping point. That’s just too scary for us to even contemplate.”
The pollution of the Lake has caused years of protest by some local iwi members. But today the Waitangi Tribunal has upheld claims by Muaūpoko which focussed on their lands and waterways in Horowhenua.
The report recommended. The Crown fund and establish a legislated Muaūpoko governance structure to act as kaitiaki for the lake and the stream and that The Tribunal recommended that the Crown provide to the new governance structure and assist them in meeting their obligations.
Di says that an annual fee or any redress or action would be something that they would need to have a look at and that it would be one small minute part of a much greater need for a series of a range of actions from the crown and authorities for Muaupoko.