Partnership ‘front and centre’

Mana whenua have been brought "front and centre" in a proposed engagement policy for the Otago Regional Council.

Councillors approved a draft significance, engagement and Maori participation policy/He mahi rau rika for public consultation during strategic and planning committee meeting yesterday.

Regulatory and communications general manager Richard Saunders said it made public the council’s commitment to its partnership with mana whenua.

That partnership was "front and centre" in the draft policy, but it also set out the council’s commitment to the community and its stakeholders, he said.

It was developed in partnership with mana whenua, and Aukaha and Te Ao Marama Inc reviewed and contributed to the document in its draft form.

The proposed policy vows to make matauranga Kai Tahu an integral part of the council’s decision-making.

"This includes acknowledging historic grievances and respecting Kai Tahu customs and beliefs when engaging with mana whenua," it says.

Council staff said legislative requirements were considered a "bottom line".

"We aspire to go beyond these statutory responsibilities to ensure meaningful engagement with mana whenua which recognises the principles of partnership of the Treaty [of Waitangi]."

A review of the overall approach to communications and engagement at the regional council was also carried out.

Otakou marae kaumatua Edward Ellison, who sits on the committee, said the policy was "very good".

"It is comforting for us as mana whenua to know that this level of detail is there in terms of policy."

Previously, not having that level of detail had seen "diversions" from that partnership, he said.

"People forget what the role is or what their responsibilities are ... and so I am fully endorsing the draft policy that is going out for consultation."

Most councillors were also pleased with the draft policy, including Cr Marian Hobbs who said it was a "strong way forward".

Crs Michael Laws and Gary Kelliher voted against it.

The draft policy will be available for public consultation from July 19 and will run for four weeks.

It will replace the council’s significance and engagement policy.