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Freshwater - Te Mana o te Wai

The importance of freshwater in Te Ao Māori

Within Te Ao Māori there are a set of common values which denote the way Māori connect with the world.  These values include whakapapa (genealogy), mana (authority, right, power), tapu (sacred or controlled), noa (common, open), tikanga (practice) and māuri (life force). These values inform how Māori place themselves in the world, and through this awareness are able to recognise the connection they have with other animate and inanimate things.  

When Tāne separated Papatūānuku (Earth Mother) and Ranginui (Sky Father), Ranginui shed tears of grief.  The tears of Ranginui eventually filled the deep caverns, the valleys, and the great basins which are now seas. Freshwater whakapapa can be traced to creation and the attributes it contains have been spiritually woven through the course of human activity. For this reason freshwater is a taonga, and Māori are the kaitiaki (guardians).  

Te Māuri O Te Wai

Mauri, or life force, can be described as the flow of energy.  All things have a particular flow of energy which influences their  nature and characteristics. Freshwater has an energy flow which influences the nature and characteristic of a water-body.  Sometimes the differences are tangtible: from a swift flowing river to a wide expansive lake,you can perceive and physically appreciate the mauri contained within those water bodies.

Māori recognised that the mauri in a water-body (or the absence of mauri) influenced its characteristics, and for this reason gave names to types of water:

- Wai-ora (pure water)

- Wai-māori (fresh water)

- Wai-kino (polluted)

- Wai-mate (dead water)

- Wai-tai (saltwater or water from ocean)

- Wai-ariki (hot springs or curative waters)

Understanding the nature, shape, form and quality of the water will give you sense of the māuri present within that water body. Undertaking certain types of activities will affect mauri, or in some cases, dissipate it. Recognising that the energy flows in a water body are dependent upon how we behave and use the water resource is a fundamental part of the way Māori view the world. 

See Tamati Kruger, Chairman of Tūhoe Te Uru Taumatua speaking about Te Mauri O Te Wai last year at Te Oniao - the Bay of Plenty Regional Council Bi-annual Māori Capacity Conference: 

National Policy Statement For Freshwater Management 2014 (NPS-FM)

By virtue of the Resource Management Act 1991, National Policy Statements are prepared by Central Government to give direction to local government on matters of national significance. The NPSFM is about recognising the national significance of freshwater and Te Mana o te Wai. The National Policy Statement For Freshwater Management 2014 (NPS-FM) sets out objectives and policies for freshwater.  The Policy provides direction on how local authorities (BOPRC) should carry out their responsibilities under the RMA for managing freshwater. 

The Bay of Plenty Regional Council is required to consult and engage with their communities, to set objectives for the state of fresh water bodies  in its region and to set limits to meet these objectives. Matters relating to Māori interests require the following:

  • Regional Council to engage with  Tangata Whenua to identify the values they have for freshwater.  
  • Involve Iwi & Hapū in decision-making and management of freshwater.
  • Determine the appropriate set of methods for the objectives and limits.

Freshwater Policy Statement implementation

Council is taking a two-step approach to implementing the NPS-FM, and improving the rules for water quality and quantity management in the region:

  1. Strengthening water allocation limits through an interim Region-wide Water Quantity Plan Change (Plan Change 9). Proposals include:
    • changes to permitted takes and drinking water takes

    • improvements to better track water allocation and actual use (water accounting), including water metering, recording and reporting

    • new rules for existing municipal (urban supply) water takes

  2. Working with iwi and communities to set new localised objectives, limits, and methods (including land and water use rules) for managing frreshwater in nine specific water management areas (WMAs). Information is currently being gathered to inform this work for the Kaituna Maketū, Pongakawa Waitahanui and Rangitāiki catchments (WMA's). Following input from iwi and key stakeholders; new objectives and methods will be drafted and publicly consulted on in 2018, as Proposed Plan Change 12 to the Regional Water and Land Plan. Similar work will roll out to the other seven WMAs in the coming years.

Proposed Plan Change 12 will recognise the objectives already set out under Plan Change 3 (Rangitaiki River) to the Regional Policy Statement .

See more information about Council's work to care for freshwater, including policy and plan changes >>


The Rangitaiki River Forum and Te Maru o Kaituna are examples of co-governance between Iwi and local government. Te Maru o Kaituna was the first co-governance entity to be established in the Bay of Plenty through treaty settlement (Tapuika Claims Settlement Act 2014). Through groups like these, the Bay of Plenty region is at the leading-edge of work to include and invlove Iwi in the decision-making processes.  

Te Maru o Kaituna

Te Maru o Kaituna River Authority is the co-governance partnership set up under the Tapuika Claims Settlement Act 2014. The co-governance forum is made up of Iwi representatives from Tapuika Iwi Authority Trust, Te Kapu Ō Waitaha, Te Pumautanga o Te Arawa Trust, Te Tāhuhu o Tawakeheimoa Trust and Ngāti Whakaue, and council representatives from the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Rotorua Lakes Council, Western Bay of Plenty District Council and Tauranga City Council. It is a permanent joint committee of the four councils.

The purpose of Te Maru o Kaituna River Authority is to promote the restoration, protection and enhancement of the environmental, cultural and spiritual health and well-being of the Kaituna River. One of the  key functions of Te Maru o Kaituna is to develop and approve the Kaituna River Document.

Rangitaiki River Forum

The Rangitaiki River Forum was formed in May 2012 by law to protect and enhance the mauri (life-giving capacity) of the Rangitaiki River and its tributaries. The Forum is a partnership made up of representatives from Ngati Whare, Ngati Manawa, Ngati Awa, Ngati Hineuru, Tuwharetoa (Bay of Plenty), as well as councillors from Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Taupo District Council and Whakatane District Council.

The Rangitaiki River Forum approved “Te Ara Whanui o Rangitaiki - Pathways of the Rangitaiki” on 16 December 2014.The Rangitaiki River Document is all about our aspirations for the River and ensuring a healthy River for the benefit of present and future generations.