Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

Māori Values Definition

Motueka River. Image - Adrienne Farr

Motueka River. Image - Adrienne Farr

From the discussions a definition of Māori values was developed: 'any natural resource, area, place, or thing (tangible or intangible) which is of physical, economic, social, cultural, historic, and/or spiritual significance to tangata whenua'. The definition was deliberately left open ended so that certain objects, attributes, or other things of significance were not constrained in meeting this definition. The definition, by including the word 'intangible', caters for language as in Māori placenames, particularly those used by tangata whenua, and the recording of information related to metaphysics or to cosmology was also regarded as important.

Any definition must take into account the sense of identity and belonging to land, water, and air. Traditionally, land was not something that could be owned or traded as a commodity. Māori did not seek or possess anything, it was more important to belong. This sense of belonging was a belief that one was born out of the land and implied that there was a relationship between people and land. Such relationships were embedded in Māori cosmology, attitudes and beliefs. Māori values manifest themselves in many forms in the natural world, and can be conceptualised as places, objects, features, and things, both tangible and intangible. Often as attributes of land, water, and culture, they can be represented in a spatial or geographic context. Māori values, as interpreted from the RMA 1991 and the Historic Places Act 1993, refer to a large range of sites, places, natural resources, objects, features, and things, including:

  • biophysical sites, features (e.g. watercourses, lake beds, river beds, landmarks, mountains, land, soil, and water, vegetation, hydrothermal areas, wetlands);
  • medicinal plants, plants for weaving;
  • cultural/social sites (e.g. marae);
  • historic sites of special significance (e.g. pā );
  • discrete sites of special significance, often spiritual (e.g. urupā, sacred shrines (tūāhu), and other wāhi tapu);
  • Māori placenames;
  • temporal changes to rohe boundaries, often based on ancestry, that impact on the natural resources therein;
  • waka landing and anchorage sites (e.g. ūnga waka, tauranga waka);
  • buried art (carvings, including whakairo and pounamu).

Reasons for Collecting Māori Values Information

There are three main reasons for collecting this type of information. The first is to satisfy the legislative requirements as stated under the RMA 1991 and Historic Places Act 1993. The second, requiring urgent attention, is that much of this information, particularly the knowledge (mātauranga) passed from one generation to the next at the iwi, hapū, and whānau level, is either being increasingly lost through death of knowledgeable Māori, especially kaumātua, or is not recorded because of deficient systems or lack of resources to transfer and store this knowledge. Māori values information is seldom stored on any type of planning database and most presently resides with individual Māori, particularly kaumātua.

The third reason for collecting this type of information is to provide a basis for iwi, hapū and regional or district environmental management plans. Te Puni Kōkiri produced a document 'Mauriora Ki Te Ao' in 1993 to help Māori plan for and manage their environmental and natural resources. This document, a key planning tool, promoted the concept of environmental planning and developing environmental inventories to help iwi, hapū and marae planning. This document also stated that 'Mauriora Ki Te Ao was all about developing new systems of management based on all that is good from Māori and western environmental management . . . created for the benefit of all'. Te Puni Kōkiri (1993) gave two main reasons for greater Māori participation in the management of the environment:

  • a right to manage the environment, recognised by the Treaty of Waitangi;
  • the creation of a better environmental management system drawn from both Māori and western philosophy.

Some iwi have begun to record and document their Māori values. Ngai Tahu produced a publication on the natural resources of the Canterbury region (Tau et al. 1990), which highlights some of the cultural and spiritual values they recognise in relation to the land. Sensitive information, such as wāhi tapu, has been broadly referenced to maps but details are only given through silent files.

What are some of the problems in obtaining Māori values information at present?

  • difficulties contacting the right people to talk to;
  • difficulties finding the right types of information;
  • a limited time frame within which to find information;
  • no centralised place to find information on Māori values;
  • no co-ordinated system to direct an enquirer or user to a particular piece of information or to a person (e.g. kaumātua);
  • the increasing loss or lack of records of Māori values information through successive generations at the iwi, hapū, whānau level;
  • the ignoring of areas or sites regarded as significant to tangata whenua, because much planning is carried out using western cultural perceptions of what is important, and information is often collected using non-Māori conceptual approaches.

End use of the information for resolving issues

Examples of how this information could be used have been identified at various hui:

  • improving the effectiveness of land-use planning by helping to identify Māori values within a spatial context;
  • helping with land-use/resource management conflict resolution by identifying Māori values within a spatial context;
  • improving conceptual frameworks showing what and where Māori values are; trying to quantify in some way the term Māori values;
  • incorporating a Māori dimension/perspective into environmental planning, so that land is looked at not simply in the 'market' sense as illustrated by the terms unproductive land, marginal land, high value land, highly productive land;
  • giving an intrinsic value to land through expressions of taonga, mana, mauriora, and tapu;
  • linking biophysical, economic, and social information with Māori values to provide information which helps define changes in land ownership, land tenure, land use, and demographic patterns through time;
  • referencing Māori values information spatially to portray community values and help future planning scenarios;quantifying different community values to identify the type, whereabouts, and magnitude of the values.

Other notes on the use of Māori values information

  • understand cultural basis of value;
  • allow informed decisions to be be integrated into policy;
  • help plan socially acceptable (to tangata whenua) uses of Māori land;
  • establish impact of European values on Māori values;
  • help focus monitoring activities towards locations of high cultural value/threat of degradation or loss;
  • facilitate adoption of GIS-based planning technology and cultural/intellectual property rights among Māori community.

Use of Māori value information in general valuation

  • resolve conflicts between competing land uses;
  • help choices between alternatives, since we are valuing a stream of outcomes over time;
  • raise awareness of value of resources;
  • stimulate examination of land-use options, and development of procedures for evaluating options;
  • provide a basis for investment for production or conservation;
  • build understanding of determinants of value;
  • establish 'costs' associated with resource degradation/option loss.