Appendix 1: About the Waikato River Authority

Principles for effectively co-governing natural resources.

Type of arrangement

The Waikato River Authority is an independent statutory body under the Waikato-Tainui Raupatu Claims (Waikato River) Settlement Act 2010.


The arrangement covers a catchment of 11,000 km2. It comprises the Waikato River from Huka Falls to Te Pūaha o Waikato, the Waipa River from its source to its connection with the Waikato River, and their catchments.


The Waikato River Authority was set up on 25 November 2010 under section 22(1) of the Waikato-Tainui Raupatu Claims (Waikato River) Settlement Act 2010 (the Act) and section 23(1) of the Ngāti Tuwharetoa, Raukawa, and Te Arawa River Iwi Waikato River Act 2010. The Act creates a co-governance and co-management framework between the Crown and river iwi.

The Waikato River Authority is the custodian of the Vision and Strategy for the Waikato River (the strategy), which is the direction-setting document for the Waikato River. The strategy formed the cornerstone of the legislation to the settlement between Waikato-Tainui and the Crown.


Section 22 of the Act states that the purpose of the Waikato River Authority is to:

  • set the primary direction through the vision and strategy to achieve the restoration and protection of the health and wellbeing of the Waikato River for future generations:
  • promote an integrated, holistic, and co-ordinated approach to the implementation of the vision and strategy and the management of the Waikato River:
  • fund rehabilitation initiatives for the Waikato River in its role as trustee for the Waikato River Clean-up Trust.
The duty of the members of the Authority is to act to achieve the purpose of the Authority.

Appointment and composition of membership

The Authority has 10 board members – five appointed from each river iwi (Tainui, Te Arawa, Tuwharetoa, Raukawa, and Maniapoto) and five Crown-appointed members. The regional council nominates one Crown member and one is nominated by the territorial authorities. The Minister for the Environment appoints one of two co-chairpersons; iwi choose the other.

The Authority's investment committee consists of the co-chairpersons and deputy co-chairpersons, and two others. It gives the full board recommendations on applications for funding. In 2015, one of the deputy co-chairpersons chaired the investment committee.


The Authority is a unique public entity. It is not subject to the Official Information Act 1982 or the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987. Trustees do not have to make minutes of their meetings public or publicise where meetings are held, and can hold meetings behind closed doors. One interviewee told us that the Authority is "at arms length from government". However, the meetings are of interest to many and the Authority gives iwi boards a written summary of its discussions.

The Authority's annual report to the Minister for the Environment is presented to Parliament. The annual report includes financial statements and a summary of attendance at meetings.

The Authority must monitor its activities and achievements and the clean-up initiatives that the Trust funds. The Authority must report at least once every five years to the Crown and river iwi on the results of its monitoring.


Waikato Regional Council reports on water quality trends in the Waikato River. Its website shows that water quality in the Waikato River has improved since the 1950s because urban and industrial wastewater treatment has improved considerably. However, levels of nitrogen in the river have risen during the past 20 years, probably as a result of changes in land use.

It will take a long time before the river is restored and people told us that the state of the river will probably get worse before it gets better. This might affect how the public perceives the Authority's effectiveness. However, the Authority's work is helping to improve the quality of the river and increase support for river projects.

Restoration strategy

The restoration strategy is intended to show the benefits and outcomes of all the agencies working together to improve the Waikato River. The strategy is being prepared at the same time as the regional council's Healthy Rivers: Plan for Change/Wai Ora: He Rautaki Whakapaipai project, which is about a change to the plan under the Resource Management Act 1991 to help limit sediment, bacteria, and nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen) entering the river. The strategy is a "bigger picture" non-binding plan for organisations/groups investing in catchment restoration and protection activities. Both initiatives seek to give effect to the Vision and Strategy. Benefits from these two plans are expected in 2-5 years' time.

One industry partner summed up the success of the co-governance arrangement as:

This sort of model – I wouldn't feel nervous with this model being rolled out to other parts of New Zealand as it works quite well [here].