Māori values are instruments by which Māori people view/interpret/experience and make sense of the world (Marsden 1988) and are derived from traditional Māori beliefs. There may be great variation in the things being valued at the community level, but the universal values and beliefs still apply. Land, water, and air are essential ingredients of life, to be respected, cherished, and sustained. Everything in the Māori world has a life force, the mauri, and contamination or degradation of natural resources is seen to damage and diminish the life force (te mauri), and affect the well-being of people. Traditional Māori values contain the common Māori belief that all biophysical things and sites, plants, trees, animals and human beings have a certain amount of tapu, mana, and mauri. In the modern context this is explained by the following selected quotes:
"the important challenge in the modern context is the wise use of natural resources in a way which is consistent with the values passed onto us by our tūpuna" (Tau et al. 1990, pp. 4-19)
"this challenge includes the wise use of natural resources, knowledge and technology passed onto us..." (Tau et al. 1990, pp. 4-19).
A whole range of things are regarded as examples of Māori values. At the iwi, hapū and whānau levels (tribe, sub-tribe, extended families) they include such things as wāhi tapu and wāhi tūpuna (sacred sites), examples being urupā (burial grounds), old battlegrounds, pā (old fortified villages), marae (settlements), and papa kāinga (ancient settlements and reserve areas). Other special resource sites such as mahinga kai and mahinga mātaitai (traditional food source areas) should also be taken into account. Māori values also apply to important archaeological sites, such as areas associated with artefact finds (e.g. adzes, waka/canoe, rock art), and natural resource areas including important types of vegetation, animal and bird life, and rock and mineral source areas (e.g. pounamu/nephrite/greenstone).
Manatū Māori , the former Ministry of Māori Affairs, described Māori cultural sites as 'windows to the past'. 'These places help give meaning and values to the environment in which we live' (Te Puni Kōkiri 1993).