Prime Minister Bill English and a delegation of Ministers will attend this year's Iwi Chairs Forum in Waitangi, with the prime focus being the ICF's position on the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Legislation Bill and natural resources, in particular, freshwater.
Chair of Ngati Kurī, Harry Burkhardt says, “The Iwi Chairs Forum welcomes the opportunity to meet with the Prime Minister at Waitangi, to discuss the key issues facing our people and to make progress towards our aspirations as Iwi. The Crown and Iwi may disagree on many issues, but we also seek to find alignment in areas that are important for Māori and for all New Zealanders.”
The forum is held four times a year throughout the country and is a platform for sharing knowledge and information between tangata whenua. Representatives from over 70 iwi meet to share Iwi experiences and to collaborate on key matters that have an impact on all iwi.
Children are a focus this year at Waitangi. “The forum will enable Iwi an opportunity to discuss the Children, Young Persons and Their Families (Oranga Tamariki) Legislation Bill and the impact current proposed changes will have on our whānau, and for us to advocate our position with key Ministers for our tamariki,” says Burkhardt.
With 60% of all children in care being of Māori whakapapa, this Bill could provide the opportunity to effect real change and achieve a meaningful reduction in the number of Māori children in care. However, Iwi Chairs have concerns with the current drafting, particularly removing the obligation to consider whānau, hapū, and iwi when making decisions about where to place a Māori child.
Another matter with significant impact is freshwater management.
“One of the big kaupapa we will be discussing in February is freshwater. In particular, we will be embarking on an intensive work programme focused on water allocation. We expect the work programme to be agreed at Waitangi and the results of this work will be presented next year. This work will help inform our iwi and Māori land owners on how we can best protect and sustainably manage water for cultural, economic, environmental and social outcomes for the future generations of all New Zealanders,” says Burkhardt.