Iwi set to put safety monitors on upper reaches of Whanganui River

Posted 13 January 2022 by Moana Ellis

Whanganui River iwi concerned about the risk of collision between canoeists and jetboaters are to put a team of monitors on the water to ensure the safety of river users.

Whanganui River, just south of Taumarunui.

Whanganui River, just south of Taumarunui. Photo: LDR / Moana Ellis

Upper Whanganui River iwi Ngāti Hāua says there has been at least one complaint raised with Maritime New Zealand by canoeists over incidents involving jet boats, and further complaints are expected.

Ngāti Hāua Iwi Trust chair Graham Bell said last summer a canoeist was seriously injured in a collision with a Department of Conservation jetboat.

“The iwi is determined to do as much as possible to avoid similar incidents occurring again,” he said.

Ngāti Hāua Iwi Trust is working with river tribes entity Ngā Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui on a plan for improved communications with operators and proactive monitoring of behaviour on the river.

Bell said the monitoring plan was focused on operators using the river from Taumarunui south. He said Ngāti Hāua’s mana over these reaches meant the iwi had a duty to actively care for the safety of people using the river within their rohe.

“As the iwi at place, we are showing leadership through a proactive plan to build relationships with operators in our rohe. We expect all operators to respect the rules in place to ensure the safety of all people.”

Ngati Hāua Iwi Trust was established in 2001 to manage iwi affairs and progress settlement of Treaty of Waitangi claims.

The iwi will call an online meeting with operators to assess numbers of people and incidents on the river and promote understanding of navigation rules and Covid-19 risk guidelines.

The plan will see a small team of Ngāti Hāua monitors on the upper reaches as they build relationships with operators.

Paddlers on Whanganui River.

Paddlers on Whanganui River. Photo: LDR / Moana Ellis

Ngā Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui chair Sheena Maru said all users have a responsibility to themselves and those they share the river with. The plan would promote Covid-19 safety as well as navigational safety.

“There have been concerns around some of the activities on the river. We are pleased to be working with Ngāti Hāua because they have a responsibility to take care of their tribal rohe,” Maru said.

“As we always do when we welcome manuhiri to our rohe, we want to ensure that they have a positive experience, that they go away well but they also come back to us.”

She said operators needed to work more closely together to ensure Covid-19 mitigation measures were being met.

“We’re always thinking about those of us who are staying here at home, that we’re all safe, we’re all well,” Maru said.

“We want people to holiday closer to home this summer to reduce the potential for Covid transmission through our communities. Hopefully, more locals will utilise the outstanding natural assets of the Whanganui River.”

Nga Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui is the post settlement entity responsible for implementing the Te Awa Tupua framework for the Whanganui River, legislated in 2017.

Maru said Ngāti Hāua and Ngā Tāngata Tiaki were looking to partner with other hapū and iwi on river safety as the summer progressed.

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