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Freshwater Matters

Example of our work regarding Freshwater Issues

Pānui edition 06/ 2020 review of the Office of the Auditor General report Reflecting On Our Work About Water Management.

We have reviewed a report from the Auditor-General, John Ryan, summarising his office’s past audit findings relating to Māori management. Overall it’s not positive: he says there are gaps in national strategy, work programme coherence, systems, resourcing and planning, and in engagement with Māori.  The point is made that Māori need to meaningfully and consistently participate in Resource Management Act processes.  We agree.  The responsible Minister, Nanaia Mahuta, says the Government will consider the report.

However, our assessment finds this report does not appear to have given the same weight of analysis to Māori specific issues as it has to other areas (the Māori section is limited to a few pages near the end of the report).  For example, it might be useful to know how many interactions /processes Māori entities are asked to participate in regarding water usage in local authority matters, and what compensation is received for that work, before commenting too much on Māori capacity and capability matters?  Equally, the report presents Māori as a ‘stakeholder’ but does not address Māori concerns in each key area – say allocation rights.  Perhaps it is time for a new Parliamentary role – akin the Auditor-General or the Commissioner for the Environment; but focused solely on ensuring Māori perspectives are provided to Parliament – beyond the immediate politicians of the day.

Title: Reflecting On Our Work About Water Management
Publisher & Date: Office of the Auditor General (OAG): February 2020
Type of Document: Accountability report
Length, style 28 pages, Plain English
Recommended readership: Subscribers interested in water quality and water management
Content summary: During 2018 and 2019 the OAG undertook a series of seven focused audits related to the public management of water resources (including topics such as quality, supply, allocation, wastewater, marine protection).  This is a synopsis report summarising key findings.  And the findings are not good, although the language is polite.

In essence the OAG was looking for clear national strategies, coherent work programmes, robust reporting systems, resource planning and management and strong community engagements, notably with Māori  However, the Auditor-General writes that, “although much good work is being done, all of these elements were not in place”.  In regard to Māori, the report finds “more can be done to involve Māori in water management”.  More specifically the report notes the parameters of the Resource Management Act in regard to local authorities working with iwi/Māori; and finds that iwi/Māori can struggle to maintain the capability and capacity required (our phrase), due to the heavy costs involved.  More framing of policy in this area from central Government is suggested to find ‘ways to work together to design effective and enduring solutions’.

Quality rating:[1] Marginal
Assessment Rationale: In our assessment the OAG does not appear to have given the same weight of analysis to Māori specific issues as it has to other technical areas.  While the report acknowledges the important role of iwi/Māori in discussions, which is positive, it ought to have provided more evidential insight into the performance of local authorities in this area.  Even some basic statistics – how many interactions required, average hours required from iwi/Māori per consent item, outcomes agreeable with Māori, etc would be useful.  Without such performance review work and data we consider it is difficult for the responsible Minister, Nanaia Mahuta, to give a detailed and involved response.
Hyperlink: https://oag.govt.nz/2020/water-management/docs/water-management.pdf

[1] Refer to the rubrics table in the endnotes for quality ratings.