Regional | Hokianga

'Stop polluting our rivers' Hokianga people plead for sovereignty over their water

The Far North District Council is hearing submissions this week to renew resource consents over wastewater treatment in the Hokianga district. But local Māori say current practices have failed and they want authority over their waterways.

The wastewater overflows in Northland are a common problem during bad weather and Māori are fed up with the failure of local authorities to manage the problem.

Pani Hauraki of Te Ihutai says it’s time to return water authority to the iwi.

“Stop polluting our sacred river. Stop! Listen up. Listen to our words. Listen to the customs handed down to us all, they are a treasure. Look after the Hokianga rivers, look after the waters,” she says.

The Far North District Council wants to renew a resource consent to discharge treated wastewater into the Hokianga Harbour, through a pipeline on the harbour bed and on to land.

Haraki says the authorities are not listening to Māori.

Iwi have had enough.

"It won't take long for the water to run dry. The entire Hokianga will run dry," she says.

For eight years the water rights have been a bone of contention between Hokianga hapū and the regional council. Māori want a better method used to deal with wastewater going into waterways.

Marcus Rodgers of Ngāti Kaharau and Ngāti Hau says given the research gathered over that time, the iwi has come up with solutions that could ensure the survival of the waters and its many fruits.

“In other words, the harbour is our source of food. For a long time it has been a treasure to us. We need to look after it,” Rodgers says.

“The hope is that the polluting of wastewater into the rivers comes to an end. We need to bring that to the land, not the water. That is what we were researching, wanting and fighting for what is right for our harbour.”

The hearings will last till Friday.