The Whanganui Iwi Treaty claim to the Whanganui River is about mending a broken relationship and building a better future for the region, says the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, Christopher Finlayson.
He said it was important for local government to have constructive input into negotiations with Whanganui iwi, as the Wanganui, Ruapehu and Stratford District Councils join with Horizons Regional Council and the Crown in Treaty settlement negotiations.
"We are all committed to ensuring that the Whanganui River is in good health and its mana appropriately recognised. This is about mending a broken relationship, ensuring that all parties are able to better fulfil their responsibilities in respect of the river and building a better future for the region," Mr Finlayson said.
"At the end of the day, local government will be a key player in making the settlement work."
In October 2011 a Record of Understanding was signed by Whanganui iwi and the Crown that set out a framework for negotiations to settle the longest-standing Treaty claim; Wai 167, the claim to the Whanganui River.
The claim has been persistently maintained since the first petitions on behalf of Whanganui iwi to Parliament in relation to the Timber Floating Bill in 1873 and the destruction of pa tuna (eel weirs) by the activities of steamers on the river in 1887. The framework focuses on the legal recognition of the river as Te Awa Tupua, "an indivisible whole from the mountains to the sea" and the development of a long-term strategy for the whole of the river through a collaborative process involving the iwi, the Crown, local government and the wider catchment community.
Mayor Annette Main said the four councils could provide their respective communities with context, knowledge and value to the process.
"We also have a combined role in communicating with our wider communities. The settlement provides us all with an exciting opportunity to work together to look after what is arguably one of this country's greatest natural assets and a taonga of importance to us all."