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  • Writer's pictureChe Wilson

Che's Thoughts on Co-Governance

Updated: Oct 4, 2023


There’s been so much kōrero around the term co-governance lately, especially in relation to Three Waters.


Personally, I think co-governance is a good first step to realising Te Tiriti o Waitangi and I think the whole nation should be founded on it.


I hasten to add that this is my opinion, not that of NAIA. I’ve been involved at the highest levels of the public sector (Deputy Secretary), I’ve been at the highest levels of the iwi sector (Chair, CE and worked for a couple of iwi), I’ve been president of a political party and I’ve been trained in the traditional Whanganui Iwi higher schools of knowledge.


The current noise that is happening is simply that: noise. It’s noise where a few insecure people are trying to feed on people’s fear of the unknown. They are doing a good job at engendering hate and fear… however, for us to take our nation to the place it deserves to be, we must speak up.


To me co-governance is simple. It’s about ensuring many voices contribute to solutions for a better Aotearoa New Zealand. It also means everyone agreeing to head in the same direction even though there are sometimes opposing views to begin with. It isn’t about control or majority opinion, it is about getting everyone’s agreement – which may take longer if you don’t have good organisational culture and effective leaders, but is so important.


I’ve also been a resource consents commissioner and from first-hand experience, our system is broken. For too long, democracy has touted fairness and equal say when in reality, it’s excluded too many and allowed indecision to run rife. Bad behaviour and actions that have been contrary to resource consents haven’t been policed under the guise of any fines will cripple the poor polluter. This has to stop and co-governance will take us to a balanced place that fosters active participation rather than the bias that the system has fostered.


What Māori will bring to the table is an intergenerational view of the world. We treat the environment as having the first take, not humanity. Currently the only measure is money whereas if you put the environment first and treat the environment as a tupuna, or ancestor, it’s a different view altogether. I’m from Whanganui and if you look at the legal personhood at a simple level:

  • The river has the first say – this looks after the river and its environs;

  • Human consumption has the second say – this looks after municipal responsibilities; and

  • Business has the next say.

This wouldn’t happen under our current system because legislation has been one eyed to those with resource to push their agendas and societal norms within local government have failed the majority and have feathered the nests of the minority.


The old adage is, if you look after the environment, the environment will look after you.

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