Hosting the Otago Fish & Game Council at the Hokonui Runanga in Gore has been a goal of Richard Twining’s for a long time.
It was finally achieved last Thursday when the council held its May meeting there and had discussions with the runanga.
As the council’s Ngai Tahu representative and the holder of the runanga’s fish and game portfolio, he had been trying to start a conversation between the two parties, Mr Twining said.
“It’s the first time they’ve come out of the Otago area to have a meeting.”
Though the Hokonui Runanga was based in the Southland region, its boundaries extended into the Otago region, he said.
“This is one of the reasons why I’ve been wanting them to come down here. So they could actually meet the people and see what the Hokonui Runanga does .. start them with engaging with iwi locally.”
Council chief executive Ian Hadland said it was the first runanga the council had been to.
“This is an important step for our council in engaging directly with local runanga.
“Hokonui [Runanga] hold mana whenua over a good portion of our statutory fish and game area. The lower Clutha and the Catlins, they’re all under the Otago Fish & Game region,” Mr Hadland said.
“We’ve got more local runanga and they’re all important. We need to do this with all the other runanga and listen to them about their values and see where our values align.”
It had always been an ambition of his to start a conversation with local runanga, but recently it had become more of a priority following a ministerial review which called for better engagement with iwi, Mr Hadland said.
“Fish & Game is in a learning phase… We’re here to listen and we’re here to learn.
“We can start a decent korero now.”
The council shared a lot of values with the runanga, he said.
“The river comes first, then the people, then the use. That’s been a mantra for Fish & Game for probably 50 years.”
This was similar to “te mana o te wai”, which meant the vital importance of water, Mr Hadland said.
“It’s actually completely in line with the way we’ve been operating. It’s easy to see how we could collaborate.
“Each individual party can’t really do it alone, so we should work together where our values align. It means people who are passionate about fresh water and its protection and its enhancement are working a lot more closely alongside each other and it’s a lot harder for people who are compromising environmental values to get their way.
“Working together, we should see improvement with fresh water.”
Runanga environmental lead Riki Parata said he was supportive of the idea.
“It’s great to hear Otago Fish & Game are talking about collaboration with iwi because that is something we have been striving to strengthen .. We’ve got a lot of rights and interests in the same areas, fresh water and native species.”