Safe Roads was a $600 million government programme to make rural highways safer. It involved installing a range of safety treatments such as roadside and median barriers, better signs, road markings, rumble strips and speed management. Iwi engagement, was a core part of ensuring the success of projects as these roads were part of a mana whenua’s rohe.
Engagement with iwi is currently going through a transformation stage – moving from working with larger iwi such as Ngāi Tahu and Tainui to smaller iwi or hapū from the local area. Although Safe Roads was a national programme, engaging with local iwi needed to be genuine, local and relationship-based, not transactional and project-specific. It was essential that we went beyond official requirements to make sure the significance of the surrounding land and other taonga were factored into the projects.
Engagement with iwi must begin early in the process and remain a key focus throughout the life of the project. Crestani engagement managers are regionally based and were therefore able to engage directly with iwi on behalf of Safe Roads in order to:
- Understand iwi links to the area – including any active treaty settlement claims and roles and responsibilities of different iwi.
- Confirm with iwi what is important to them for us to engage with them about (for example: tikanga, planting, karakia and cultural monitoring). We then document this understanding and give it to iwi. This acts as a living document for current and future engagement with the Transport Agency on the things that matter to them.
- Understand what protocols need to be taken into account before any work is undertaken/ground disturbed. Allow iwi to provide feedback on ecology and archaeology reports and have direct discussion with subject matter experts.
Having a local engagement manager meant there was a familiar face to engage with from start to finish. This approach resulted in positive relationships between parties and importantly, created the relationships and forums required to have robust conversations with iwi in an environment of trust and respect.