Te Pūwaha, Whanganui’s port revitalisation project, was awarded the top prize in the Best Practice Collaboration category at the Economic Development NZ Awards last night. The winners of the Awards were announced at a ceremony in Christchurch, the host city to this year’s EDNZ Conference. Te Pūwaha is a collaborative partnership between Whanganui iwi (Ngā Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui Trust, Whanganui Land Settlement Negotiations Trust and Tupoho) and four other groups invested in the development. These groups are Whanganui District Council, Horizons Regional Council, Q-West Boat Builders and the Whanganui District Employment Training Trust. Kānoa - Regional Economic Development and Investment Unit (under the original Provincial Growth Fund) is also a key funding partner.
The EDNZ application was submitted by economic development agency Whanganui & Partners on behalf of the Te Pūwaha partners. The award winners were decided by an Awards Committee, with applicants having to meet criteria specific to each class of award.
The criteria for Best Practice Collaboration included; achieved outcomes, innovativeness, robustness, and replicability.
Hannah Middleton, Chief Executive of Whanganui & Partners, said although she believed Te Pūwaha was an exceptional and deserving winner, applying for the award was an unknown as Te Pūwaha is unique in ways fundamentally different to other economic development projects.
“The critical and defining difference of Te Pūwaha is the relational model to share power and decisions. Te Pūwaha demonstrates ‘best practice’ for working in partnership with iwi, hapū and the community – and it is hugely gratifying to see this affirmed by the EDNZ committee.”
Tupua Te Kawa, the set of innate values of Te Awa Tupua, guide all decision-making related to the Whanganui River, and Te Pūwaha. The principles of Te Awa Tupua recognise the metaphysical and indivisible nature of the river; the intrinsic and inalienable place of hapū and iwi as the River; and community empowerment through a collective obligation to work collaboratively for the River’s benefit.
Working under the guiding values of Tupua Te Kawa requires an innovative, collaborative approach by all project partners. This way of working is not something that has been previously undertaken by an infrastructure project of this scale.
Te Pūwaha Project Director Hayden Turoa said the answer to EDNZ’s question about “achieved outcomes and innovation” looked different to traditional thinking around targets versus performance, KPIs and cost-effective metrics.
“Simply put, the innovation at the centre of this project is working in a way that upholds kawa and our indigenous values, that recognises the intimate and inextricable connection between people and the natural environment, while developing an economic asset for Whanganui.
“This has helped us better organise our project in line with the community’s aspirations to care for our awa. This model has the awa at the centre of decision making,” Turoa said.
“The model of abundance is the process for measuring the success of this project. We know the abundance model has not conventionally been adopted in economic development. Te Pūwaha demonstrates how this model, and the application of indigenous values in governance and decision-making, is fundamentally important.”
Turoa said Te Pūwaha exceeded all requirements for robustness and replicability.
“The relational power-sharing model is allowing us to deliver better outcomes for our awa. This is ground-breaking for Whanganui, but it is also ground-breaking for central government agency Kānoa in the way it has funded the project outcomes. The Te Pūwaha partners have created an example that can be used locally, nationally, and internationally.”
He said the project was innovative in a way unique to economic development projects.
“He Ara Tuku Rau (the abundance model) is based on Tupua te Kawa and ensures this project creates a pathway towards abundance, mouri ora, mouri awa, mouri tangata.”
Ensuring the principles and concepts of abundance are linked directly to decision-making and actions on the ground is an essential task for Te Mata Pūau, a group made up of Whanganui hapū. The awards ceremony was attended by representatives from Horizons Regional Council, Te Mata Pūau, Whanganui District Council and Whanganui District Employment Training Trust and Q-West Boat Builders, and Whanganui & Partners.
“Change usually occurs by thousands of small steps over generations,” Turoa said. “On all occasions, the leadership of iwi and hapū has been sought to ensure understanding, correct adoption and compliance.”
Turoa said this new way of working has been provided for through the generosity of hapū and iwi.
“It has enhanced a whole community voice and role in Te Pūwaha. This means we are able to meet our objectives; mouri ora – abundance for the wider ecosystem, mouri awa – abundance for the river, and mouri tangata – abundance for whānau, hapū and iwi and the community of Whanganui.”