Western and Mäori Values for Sustainable Development

David Rei Miller, BE (Enviro) (Hons)

Ngäti Tüwharetoa, Ngati Kahungunu 

As the 20th century drew to a close, we began writing a new chapter in the history of Aotearoa. In 2004, Mäori have greater control over resource management and decision making than at any time in our colonial past. Treaty settlements, iwi ventures and partnerships with government have been used to bring the Mäori economy into the marketplace of the modern world, the global economy. 

However, the global economy, and humanity in general, is now facing enormous challenges due to resource depletion and environmental degradation. Forestry, fishery and agriculture  account for $1 billion of the $1.9 billion Mäori economy annually (NZIER, 2003). But these industries are greatly at risk from threats such as global climate change, seasonal algal blooms and unsustainable resource use. Also, the cost of environmental protection inevitably falls on the consumer. Future increases in the cost of living can be expected. In general, Mäori are at the lower end of the socio-economic scale, and will feel the pinch first.  

Past failures in resource management have resulted in events such as the extinction of the moa or the numerous oil crises of the past 40 years. In spite of these failures, or perhaps because of them, Western science now agrees with Tikanga Mäori in saying that future economic development should be sustainable. Sustainability of resources means ensuring these are used to meet our present requirements without compromising the requirements of future generations.  

Beginning with Te Tiriti o Waitangi (1840), a number of documents have provided a framework for cooperative management (between iwi and the New Zealand government) of the resources of Aotearoa. The Resource Management Act (1991) introduced concepts such as kaitiakitanga to Pakeha decision makers. The Local Government Act (2002) attempted to embed the principles of Te Tiriti in regional and local planning practices. But Tikanga Mäori or iwi consultation are still treated as an inconvenient and expensive afterthought by many architects, planners, engineers and scientists. This is despite the fact that Aotearoa is the cradle of Mäori civilisation, and that the mana whenua of iwi predates all of the above legislation by some 900 years. 

This paper attempts to give a brief overview of Western and Mäori concepts for sustainable development and resource management. The Mauri model for decision-making presented by Kepa Morgan (2004) to the New Zealand Society for Sustainability Engineering and Science will be referred to extensively. Several case studies where projects have incorporated Western science and Tikanga Mäori will be analysed. Finally, the following priorities for sustainable development of Mäori resources will be suggested: 

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