Te Ao Māori

Te Ao Māori, the Māori worldview, encapsulates the rich cultural tapestry and spiritual essence of the indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand. Rooted in history and tradition, it provides a unique lens through which Māori people perceive the world, acknowledging the interconnectedness and interrelationship of all living & non-living things"

The Essence of Te Ao Māori: At its core, Te Ao Māori is an interconnected framework that emphasises the harmony between humans and the environment. It embodies respect for the land (whenua), waterways (wai), and all living beings as interconnected parts of a greater whole. This worldview also highlights the importance of whakapapa, the genealogical links that weave individuals into their ancestral lineages, strengthening a sense of identity and belonging.

Spirituality and Belief: Te Ao Māori is deeply rooted in spirituality, with a strong belief in the interconnectedness of all things. The concept of tapu (sacredness) and noa (commonness) underpins daily interactions, guiding behaviours that maintain balance and respect. The spiritual bond with ancestors and deities is revered, influencing practices such as karakia (prayer) and kapa haka (performing arts), which communicate stories, values, and traditions across generations.

Community and Collective Well-being: Community (hapori) is at the heart of Te Ao Māori. Values like manaakitanga (hospitality) and whanaungatanga (kinship) emphasise the importance of nurturing relationships and supporting one another. Decision-making involves consensus and inclusivity, showcasing a commitment to collective well-being and unity.

Navigating Modernity: In an evolving world, Te Ao Māori remains a vital source of strength and resilience. Māori people are finding innovative ways to incorporate their worldview into contemporary contexts, from education and governance to health and the arts, ensuring that the essence of Te Ao Māori endures and flourishes.

Te Ao Māori offers a profound perspective on existence, fostering reverence for nature, spiritual interconnectedness, and community unity. This indigenous worldview invites us to reevaluate our own relationships with the environment, spirituality, and each other, as we navigate the complexities of the modern world.

Te Ao Māori in the Context of Land and Water Management

Te Ao Māori, the Māori worldview, encompasses a deep respect for nature and a holistic understanding of the interconnectedness between humans and the environment. This indigenous perspective offers invaluable insights that can be harnessed to enhance land management and freshwater practices. By weaving Te Ao Māori principles into environmental strategies, we can pave the way for more sustainable and harmonious interactions with our natural resources.

One central theme to Te Ao Māori is the concept of whakapapa, which underscores the interconnectedness of all life forms. The land (whenua) and water (wai) hold ancestral ties, making them integral to the Māori identity. This spiritual bond cultivates a profound respect for these elements and fuels a commitment to their preservation. By recognising the intrinsic relationship between people and their environment, we can adopt a more conscientious approach to land management.

Traditional Māori land management practices reflect a profound understanding of ecological balance. Techniques such as rahui (temporary resource bans) and taonga (treasure) species protection demonstrate an intrinsic awareness of conservation. Incorporating these practices can aid in safeguarding vulnerable ecosystems. Furthermore, incorporating Te Ao Māori values such as kaitiakitanga (guardianship) can lead to regenerative agriculture and reforestation efforts that prioritise long-term sustainability over short-term gains.

Freshwater (wai) holds immense cultural significance in Te Ao Māori. It is revered as a taonga (treasure) and considered essential for spiritual and physical well-being. Traditional knowledge surrounding water management can inform modern strategies. Customary methods like mahinga kāi (sustainable harvesting) emphasise the importance of maintaining water quality and aquatic life. Integrating these practices with modern science can lead to improved water management practices that benefit both ecosystems and communities.

The concepts of tapu (sacredness) and noa (commonness) play a crucial role in Te Ao Māori's environmental practices. These concepts govern behaviour and usage, ensuring that resources are respected and used sustainably. By integrating these notions into environmental policies, we can foster a culture of responsible resource management, preventing overexploitation and degradation of natural resources.

Tauutuutu, a key ethic for Māori business, is driving entrepreneurship, innovation and sustainability in primary production, and creating premium value chains and product. Tauutuutu is an indigenous way of thinking and acting that shapes not only social but also economic and environmental exchanges. It encourages escalating, rather than equal, 'investments' (in terms of time and resources). Research in 2022 found that tauutuutu ethics are still a core part of decision-making in Māori enterprises, although today they are less formalised, and tend to be implicit rather than openly discussed.

Te Ao Māori underscores the significance of community (hapori) and kinship (whanaungatanga). By involving local communities in land and water management decisions, we tap into a wealth of traditional knowledge and foster a shared sense of responsibility. Collaborative efforts that include Māori iwi (tribes) and organisations can lead to more effective and culturally sensitive conservation initiatives.

Bridging Te Ao Māori with environmental practices also aids in the revival of cultural heritage. Practices like waiata (songs) and haka (dances) communicate ancestral stories and values, creating a stronger connection between Māori communities and their environment. Integrating modern technologies with traditional knowledge can lead to innovative solutions for tracking and mitigating environmental changes.

Mana Whenua and Mana Moana

Mana whenua and mana moana are those who hold tribal rights and authority over land/territory or water, usually due to a whakapapa connection to the area.

Mana whenua and mana moana have the right to hold the role of Kaitiaki within their rohe. A Kaitiaki is a guardian, which in the environmental context protects the land, indigenous biodiversity, the sky, and waterbodies.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi (The Treaty of Waitangi) and its Fundamental Principles

The Treaty of Waitangi, signed in 1840 between the Māori chiefs and the British Crown, stands as a pivotal document in Aotearoa New Zealand's history, shaping the nation's relationships, policies, and identity. This treaty sought to establish a foundation of cooperation and understanding between the indigenous Māori people and the British settlers. At its core, the Treaty of Waitangi consists of three key principles that continue to influence the country's governance and social fabric.

Partnership (Parties to the Treaty):

The Treaty recognises Māori as equal partners in the governance of Aotearoa New Zealand. It acknowledges the sovereignty and authority of Māori chiefs over their lands and resources, while also establishing British sovereignty. This principle emphasises the importance of collaboration and decision-making that involves both Māori and the Crown, ensuring that the interests and aspirations of both parties are taken into account.

Protection (Guarantee of Māori Rights):

Under the Treaty, Māori were guaranteed the protection of their cultural, social, and economic rights. The principle of protection safeguards Māori customs, language, and traditions, preventing their erosion due to colonisation. It also enforces the Crown's responsibility to ensure the well-being of Māori communities, fostering a commitment to their preservation and advancement.

Participation (Active Involvement):

The principle of active participation highlights the importance of involving Māori in decision-making processes that affect their lives. It acknowledges the significance of Māori input in policies, laws, and practices, ensuring that their perspectives are represented. This principle acknowledges the richness of Māori knowledge and its potential contributions to the overall development of Aotearoa New Zealand.

While the Treaty of Waitangi's principles are deeply ingrained in the nation's ethos, their interpretation and implementation have led to ongoing discussions and challenges. Efforts to address historical injustices, honour treaty obligations, and promote equity continue to shape the country's path towards reconciliation and unity.

The Treaty of Waitangi remains a cornerstone of Aotearoa New Zealand's identity, embodying principles of partnership, protection, and participation. This historic document serves as a reminder of the shared journey toward a more inclusive and harmonious society, where the rights and aspirations of both Māori and non-Māori are respected and upheld.

Wai tapu

Tangata whenua take a holistic view of waterbodies, viewing surface water and groundwater as connected. Wai tapu means 'sacred waters'. These are recognised waterbodies with cultural significance. Examples include burial waters, springs, and other water bodies that have cultural properties which need to be protected.

Wahi tupuna - Protecting Mahinga kāi

Mahinga kāi is the practice of food and fibre gathering and utilisation which sustain the Mana whenua. It is a cornerstone of the culture, identity, and practices of Mana whenua. Mahinga kāi is about traditional food sources for iwi. It includes specific species and habitats.

Iwi are deeply connected to waterbodies, this includes lakes, lagoons, estuaries, wetlands, rivers, and the ocean. As such Mana whenua hold the role of Kaitiaki (guardians) over these areas. Continued access to these areas, and protecting the natural ecosystems are vitally important Tangata whenua.

Wahi tupuna - Protecting cultural landscapes

Wahi tupuna are the ancestral trails of Tangata whenua, who have lived and travelled across this region. The greater kāi Tahu Rohe has now been extensively mapped for travel routes, camping sites, resting places, burial sites, mahinga kāi, and sites for gathering natural resources. Mahinga kāi locations are often at the heart of valued landscapes.

Te Mana o te Wai

What is Te Mana o te Wai and what does it mean?

Te Mana o te Wai refers to the vital importance of water. When managing freshwater, it ensures the health and well-being of the water is protected and human health needs are provided for before enabling other uses of water. It expresses the special connection all New Zealanders have with freshwater. By protecting the health and well-being of our freshwater we protect the health and well-being of our people and environments. Through engagement and discussion, regional councils, communities and tangata whenua will determine how Te Mana o te Wai is applied locally in freshwater management.

Te Mana o te Wai has been part of the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management since 2014, though there have been changes to how the concept is described and how it must be applied.