Co-governance and a better understanding


A lot of people have asked me about my interpretation of co-governance and a lot of people are confused about what it means and the relationship between Maori and the Crown. So I thought i would take some time and best describe it using examples of how it already exists and, in some cases, has existed for some time. One such example is a report published by the Auditor Generals office in 2016/16 entitled “Principles of effectively co-governing natural resources” which reflected on relationships between New Zealanders, Iwi, Hapu, Government and communities when it comes to conserving the environment – which is relevant given the current debate around Three Waters. In that report, and as many of us already know and are aware, those forms of co-governance have been around for some time and eight such examples include:

  • Waikato River Authority;

  • Tūpuna Maunga o Tāmaki Makaurau Authority (Auckland);

  • Te Waihora Co-Governance Agreement (Lake Ellesmere, Canterbury);

  • Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Strategy Group;

  • Ngā Poutiriao o Mauao (Tauranga);

  • Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust (Waikato);

  • Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Reserves Board; and

  • Parakai Recreation Reserve Board.

All the examples involved iwi and local authorities. Some also included community groups. Some arose out of Treaty of Waitangi claims settlements. Others were voluntary, including one that was later formalised through a Treaty settlement.


In resource management work, the terms "co-governance" and "co-management" are both used to describe negotiated arrangements between iwi, central government, local government, and/or local groups to achieve effective management of an environmental or conservation resource.


These terms are sometimes used interchangeably because their definitions are not well understood. Governance focuses on strategic matters, while management is concerned with day-to-day operational responsibilities. When used correctly, the terms can describe the extent of decision-making powers. Where natural resources are managed as part of or after a Treaty settlement, co-governance often means that there are equal numbers of iwi representatives and council members involved. Usually (an exception is the Waikato River Authority), councils retain final decision-making powers over the management of natural resources. This is in keeping with councils' responsibilities under the Resource Management Act 1991 and the Local Government Act 2002.


The Waikato-Tainui Raupatu Claims (Waikato River) Settlement Act 2010 set up the Waikato River Authority as a co-governance entity. The Waikato River Authority sets the direction for managing the Waikato River in its "Vision and Strategy" document. This document is considered to be part of the Waikato Regional Policy Statement. It is binding on all national, regional, and district policy and decisions for the management of the river.

The Tūpuna Maunga o Tāmaki Makaurau Authority is also a co-governance entity. Auckland Council is responsible for managing the Maunga, under the direction of the Tūpuna Maunga o Tāmaki Makaurau Authority.


The Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Strategy Group is charged with providing leadership in putting into effect its vision and strategy for the Rotorua lakes and their catchments. As the governance group, it provides the direction, vision, and strategic oversight for the lakes programme. The strategy group needs to approve any decisions about funding under the Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Programme.


Local authorities usually control the creation, membership, and disestablishment of joint committees. However, when they are part of Treaty redress, the creation and membership of these committees are agreed between councils and iwi and provided for in Treaty legislation. This is the case for the Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Strategy Group. The Te Arawa Lakes Settlement Act 2006 provides for the establishment of a permanent joint committee that can be disestablished only with the agreement of all parties. This means that the Te Arawa Lakes Trust is an equal member with the regional and district councils.


In all of these example co-governance and the interplay of co-management works extremely well. Another great paper to read is titled “The changing face of co-governance in New Zealand – how are Ngāi Tahu and Ngāi Tūhoe promoting the interests of their people through power-sharing arrangements in resource management?


Power sharing regimes in resource management, including co-governance and co-management schemes, are now common across New Zealand. These schemes bring together iwi and the Crown to facilitate various environmental objectives. These arrangements often utilise the tenants of tikanga Māori, in particular the concept of kaitiakitanga, and are generally provided for outside of the Resource Management Act 1991. This thesis shows how two iwi, Ngāi Tahu of the South Island, and Ngāi Tūhoe of Te Urewera in the central North Island, are utilising such schemes to promote the interests of their people. It explains that Ngāi Tahu have built up co-governance in a patchwork manner, utilising the provisions of their settlement to build three distinct co-management arrangements in Canterbury. The thesis shows that Ngāi Tahu have yet to gain full co-governance capacity, but may well have a future role at the table in regional Canterbury governance from 2016 onwards. In comparison, Ngāi Tūhoe have been granted a different kind of governance arrangement that arguably goes beyond co-governance.


This governance arrangement is based off the fact that legal personality has been granted to Te Urewera, and will allow Ngāi Tūhoe to promote the interests of their people in a unique way. The thesis will show that the face of co-governance is changing, and the future face of such arrangements may well give iwi more control. However, that there are pitfalls associated with such resource management power sharing schemes that must be taken into account when planning for future arrangements.


Auckland City Council has other examples: Non-statutory co-governance and co-management arrangements


  1. The council has other non-statutory co-governance and co-management arrangements with Māori within Tāmaki Makaurau.

  2. These include separate entities or local boards committees established to oversee a park or facility to which iwi may be appointed.

  3. One example is the Mutukaroa (Hamlins Hill) Management Trust, which was settled in 1996 by the Minister of Lands and trustees representing the former Auckland City Council, former Auckland Regional Council, Ngāti Pāoa, Ngāti Whātua, Tainui, and the member of parliament for the area. Auckland Council has assumed the responsibilities of Auckland City Council and Auckland Regional Council.

The intent was to set aside Mutukaroa/Hamlins Hill as a regional park until treaty claims were finalised. This is achieved by the Crown leasing the area to the trust and the trust subleasing it to Auckland Council to operate as a regional park. The trust meets about four times a year to receive reports on park operations and to provide advice on matters of significance to trustees

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