Te Mana o te Wai
Te Mana o te Wai is a concept that puts the well-being and health of our rivers, lakes, aquifers and estuaries at the centre of how we manage our freshwater. Te Mana o te Wai encompasses the integrated and holistic health and well-being of a waterbody.
When we effectively manage our freshwater to meet Te Mana o te Wai, the waterbody will sustain the full range of environmental, social, cultural and economic values held by iwi and our community, including iwi. The concept is expressed in te reo Maori, but applies to freshwater management for and on behalf of the whole community.
Te Mana o te Wai and the National Policy Statement for Freshwater (NPS-FM)
Te Mana o te Wai was first included in the NPS-FM in 2014, and further refined and elevated in subsequent versions in 2017 and 2020.
The NPS-FM specifies that every regional council must give effect to Te Mana o te Wai and apply the following hierarchy of obligations:
- the health and well-being of waterbodies and freshwater ecosystems
- the health needs of people (such as drinking water)
- the ability of people and communities to provide for their social, economic, and cultural well-being, now and in the future.
The Murihiku Southland setting
Te Mana o te Wai was included in the proposed Southland Water and Land Plan when it was notified in 2016. This concept is at the heart of how Murihiku Southland’s freshwater will be managed into the future.
In 2019, Environment Southland and Te Ao Marama initiated a programme of work to identify community values for freshwater, and then establish a number of environmental outcomes to protect those values.
These steps to identify values and set environmental outcomes are required as part of the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management.
The way that Te Mana o te Wai is expressed is different for each community, being based on their unique relationship with freshwater in their area or rohe.
The work we’ve completed uses the concept of hauora as a way to give effect to Te Mana o te Wai in Murihiku Southland. Hauora refers to the well-being or health of a waterbody, the environment around it and the people who interact with it. It includes the waterbody’s ability to take a knock and bounce back (resilience). This means waterbodies free of pollution, rubbish and odour that contain a diverse range of healthy ecosystems including native species. It also means waterbodies that are safe for people to drink, play in and practice mahinga kai and food gathering in and around.
Te Mana o te Wai and natural state
Achieving Te Mana o te Wai doesn’t mean we’re looking to return Southland back to what it was like before Europeans settled here, or to a ‘natural state’.
We recognise the landscape has changed significantly since human (and especially European) arrival. Te Mana o te Wai is about achieving the needs of the water first then allowing for other uses. The draft environmental outcomes (freshwater objectives) aim to achieve the community’s values for water, the requirements of the NPS-FM and do it in a way that is the best fit for Southland.
Hauora can be thought of to mean fit, well, vigorous and robust. Waterbodies are at their most healthy and resilient in a largely unimpacted state (this is the top of the decision and hauora envelopes). With increased pressure, cumulatively and over time, waterbodies can shift from a state of healthy resilience into a degraded state that no longer supports natural processes, populations of species, or human activities and uses that were once associated with the waterbody.
Environment Southland and Te Ao Marama are pulling information together, including advice from the Regional Forum, that will assess the implications of achieving the bottom of the hauora envelope within a generation (25-30 years) for all environmental outcomes. The bottom of the hauora envelope reflects a level of healthy resilience that will provide for uses that support the health of people.