For the first time, Department of Conservation (DoC) staff are learning first hand, the historical significance of the Waikato River through a rowing expedition by the tribe. Waikato-Tainui want their relationship with the government department to be strengthened.
The Waikato River, home of a hundred guardians. A traditional source of life, food and a highway traversed by the Waikato people. Today is being traversed by some DoC management and staff for the first time.
Waikato Raupatu River Trust spokesperson, Moko Tauariki says, "They get to feel the spirit and experience the river. They also get to see its sacred sites from on the river."
David Speirs from DoC says, "For us the opportunity to share in the stories and the history, and the things that have made the Waikato Tainui - Waikato River relationship is gold, it's absolutely priceless. There's no better way of learning that, then on the river, in the water, smelling the water, hearing the sounds, and side by side with Waikato-Tainui."
It's been 16 years since the signing of the Waikato River Settlement, and ensuring its health and well-being is paramount for the tribe.
Tauariki says, "This is our ancestral river, it's not just water. Therefore for this portion of the river at the Port, they get to see the effluent and smell its stench. So you who hold the purse strings, need to open it and clean up this area of the river."
A view that is supported by DoC.
Speirs says, "One of the lessons for us in this is that you can't separate the decisions you make on the whenua from the awa, and our role in administering a third of New Zealand's land area, a huge part of the land that influences the Waikato river is critical in the health and well-being of the river."
There's only 15km left to row, but for both Waikato-Tainui and DoC this journey is just a beginning.
"We really want to do this every year. DoC regularly change their management as directed by the government," says Tauariki.
"Would you like to do it again? Yep, absolutely, absolutely, yep I think we should bring more staff into this, and as the opportunity presents, we will," says Speirs.