Waikato Regional Council: Implementation of Treaty settlements estimated at over $13.18 million

The Waikato Regional Council's draft submission to the Productivity Commission's inquiry into Local Government Funding and Financing reveals that the implementation of Treaty of Waitangi settlements creates significant cost pressures for Council. The submission states that "the Council wishes to work with its iwi partners in partnership but notes that the costs to do so is significant to its ratepayers".

For the Waikato Regional Council (WRC) the costs relate, in part, to the one co management agreement and five joint management agreements agreed between the Council and iwi. "The Crown's policy is to provide local councils with one-off payments to assist with the implementation of Treaty settlement outcomes. While this financial assistance provides some contribution to the establishment of frameworks to implement settlement agreements, there is a large and on-going cost associated with implementing and maintaining each arrangement".

Waikato Regional Council staff have estimated Treaty settlement costs at over $13.18 million (without including Nga Wai o Maniapoto Act, and the updated cost for Pare Hauraki), with many ongoing costs unknown. (For a break down of these costs see Appendix A, Strategy and Policy Committee Agenda 12 Feb 2019 - 'Treaty settlement costs for Waikato Regional Council').

The submission states there are two types of costs incurred when implementing Treaty settlement arrangements:

  1. Additional costs, which are imposed on councils due to settlement legislation. For example:
  2. Administrative support, democratic services and other council staff services required for the provision of the exercise of powers and functions for the co governance entities, boards or committees.
  3. RMA policy development activities that are not planned or anticipated but are required by a Treaty settlement within a specified timeframe.
  4. Specialist technical staff time on the development and implementation of co governance entity plans, documents and joint management agreements or other such agreements as required.
  5. Business as usual costs, which occur as a result of engaging with iwi irrespective of settlement legislation. For example, administering iwi arrangements under the RMA and relationship management with iwi.

The considerable expansion of local government responsibilities is also identified as a key cost driver. The impetus for local government to do more is growing, including increasing expectations from iwi to respond and deliver on their environmental, social and economic priorities and aspirations for mana motuhake, (mana motuhake - a separate identity, autonomy, self-government, self-determination, independence, sovereignty, authority - mana through self-determination and control over one's own destiny).

One example of a new requirement which will increase costs is the draft national planning standards (tangata whenua standard). This standard requires councils to engage with both tangata whenua and mana whenua to develop tangata whenua sections of regional plans, prior to notifying a plan.

The submission states "The engagement obligations have no timeframes and go way beyond RMA requirements for iwi engagement. This will impose significant unbudgeted costs and increase plan timeframes". It also warns that there are approximately 40-50 iwi authorities in their region that may initiate a request for a Mana Whakahono a Rohe (MWHAR) Agreement at any time, which council will have to respond to and complete within the 18-month statutory timeframe.

The Resource Legislation Amendment Act 2017 provides for iwi authorities to initiate MWHAR Agreements, to come together with local authorities to agree on ways tangata whenua may participate in RMA decision making, and to assist councils with their statutory obligations to tangata whenua under the RMA.

You can read the submission in full, pages 25-45 Strategy and Policy Committee Agenda 12 February

The LGNZ report 'Treaty Settlements: Whakataunga Tiriti - The case for increased financial contribution to local government for implementing Treaty settlement arrangements' provides an overview of the increased demands on North Island councils to uphold obligations to what they call 'their iwi partners'.

Source: Democracy Action: March Update, 4 March 2019