Tauranga City Council has won this year's Te Tohu Waka Hourua – The Buddle Findlay Award for Māori-Council Partnerships with its 'Joint Land Ownership – the Right Thing to Do' project. Greater Wellington Regional Council has also been highly commended for its 'Climate Resilience Programme – Broader Outcomes' project.

Delivered by Paul Beverley, Partner at Buddle Findlay, this award recognises programmes, projects or initiatives that demonstrate outstanding results from working in partnership with Māori. Entries may come from any area of local government activity, but must be able to demonstrate a commitment to partnership with Māori.

Te Manawataki o Te Papa – the Heartbeat of Te Papa – is a transformative redevelopment of Tauranga’s Civic Precinct, which will reinvigorate the city centre and make it the cultural, historic, economic and social centrepiece of New Zealand’s fastest growing city.

The land underlying the Civic Precinct has been the subject of disputed ownership since it was gifted to the Crown by the Church Missionary Society in the 1860s, directly contravening the understanding that mana whenua had when the land was first sold. Tauranga City Council, in collaboration with iwi and hapū, sought and implemented a joint ownership solution which has restored the mana of the whenua to its original owners.

The judges said "working together has resulted both in the resolution of a long-standing dispute outside of Te Tiriti processes and empowerment of a large transformative project with multiple wellbeing outcomes. A clear commitment to partnership was evident,. This was indeed, the right thing to do. 

Greater Wellington Regional Council was also highly commended in this category for its excellent 'Climate Resilience Programme – Broader Outcomes' project. This is a structured programme delivering a set of broader social and economic outcomes alongside the council’s more business as usual flood protection work. This includes the provision of training, employment opportunities, and programmes to reconnect imprisoned Ngāti Kahungunu with their whenua.

The judges said that "this project is a shining example of the kind of integrated approach to community wellbeing that Parliament had in mind when it restored wellbeing to the purpose of local government in 2019."

Buddle Findlay is one of New Zealand’s leading commercial and public law firms with a significant local government practice. This is the third year that Buddle Findlay have sponsored this category.