The Crown and Whanganui iwi have signed a framework agreement forming the basis for a settlement of historical claims relating to the Whanganui River.

This framework agreement sets out key elements of the settlement. In particular:

  • the river will be given statutory recognition as "an indivisible and living whole, from the mountains to the sea, incorporating its tributaries and all its physical and metaphysical elements";
  • the river will be given legal personality and have legal standing, with the Crown and Whanganui iwi each appointing a person to exercise guardianship and act on behalf of the river; and
  • a "Whole of River Strategy" will be developed by iwi, central and local government, commercial and recreational users and other stakeholders. Broadly, this will seek to ensure the longterm environmental, social, cultural and economic health and wellbeing of the river.

Whanganui iwi first filed their claim (Wai 167) with the Waitangi Tribunal in 1990. In its 1999 Whanganui River Report the Tribunal found, among other things, that:

  • the river was a single and indivisible entity;
  • Whanganui iwi possessed and held rangitiratanga over the river and had never sold their interests in it; and
  • the Crown had expropriated the river (by way of the Coalmines Amendment Act 1903) without consultation or compensation and contrary to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Settlement negotiations between the Crown and Whanganui iwi occurred between 2002 and 2004, ending without agreement. They recommenced in 2009, leading to a Record of Understanding in October 2011 and last week's framework agreement.

Beyond the elements set out in last week's framework agreement, negotiations between the Crown and Whanganui iwi are yet to be completed. In particular, matters regarding cultural and financial redress and the Crown apology remain to be addressed.

Once these have been resolved and negotiations are concluded, a deed of settlement will be agreed to, enacted in legislation and ratified.

This settlement follows WaikatoTainui Raupatu Claims (Waikato River) Settlement Act 2010, which provides for the comanagement of that river by iwi and the Waikato Regional Council.