Sam Judd
Comment on the environment from nzherald.co.nz columnist Sam Judd

Sam Judd: Learning land protection from Māori

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An artist's rendition of the Te Atatu Marae to be constructed. Photo / supplied.
An artist's rendition of the Te Atatu Marae to be constructed. Photo / supplied.

When it comes to research, there is a big focus on Mātauranga Māori - the traditional knowledge held by the people of the land - being integrated into western-style science.

While this may be seen by some as a fashionable way to meet the often unclear obligations around consultation that are enshrined into law by the Treaty of Waitangi, I believe that this traditional knowledge has much more to offer than that.

Unlike the all-too-common short-term view that is held by most investors, who want to know how they can make a quick buck, Māori think in very different ways about what to do as kaitiaki (guardians) of the land.

They take time in their decision-making and are principally concerned with future generations rather than just themselves.

When it comes to looking after the land, I have seen Tangata Whenua (the people of the land) promote the idea of a 200-year plan, which in reality should be how we are looking at our resources if we want future generations to thrive.



This is particularly relevant when it comes to riparian restoration - which is currently in vogue as a way to take some baby steps towards reducing the massive impact that development and exotic animals have on our waterways.

The traditional knowledge held by Māori and passed on through generations can inform us about what species previously thrived across the country before we drained the wetlands, polluted them with chemical fertiliser and outnumbered ourselves with cows.

For me, it is refreshing to work with people who take a longer-term view, because as we embark on our Love Your Water riparian planting tour, we are planting natives that will never be cut down.

It is vital that - even if we are doing something with the best intentions - we collaborate with Tangata Whenua to ensure that the right species are chosen for these plantings, otherwise you could end up doing something to the ecosystem that is not natural and altering it even further.

The ideal situation for such projects is to work directly with the people of the land, so that each party's knowledge informs the other and I feel greatly honoured to be involved in a small way, in a landmark event this month where I have really enjoyed the collaboration.

For over 50 years, Tangata Whenua on the Te Atatu Peninsula in Auckland have been in a struggle to get back a piece of land to build a marae.

It appears that this process is coming to a conclusion this year - a major milestone for reconciliation in the area.

Everyone is welcome to join this event at Orangihina Park and Reserve on Te Atatu Pensinsula this Saturday on June 18.

It will involve a dawn karakia (blessing), planting of paa harakeke (flax) near the waterway and a family fun day with music, Kapa Haka groups, a bouncy castle and more, to celebrate Matariki (the Māori new year).

The official welcoming starts at 9:00am and runs through to 4:00pm and there is an open invitation to come along with your kids to enjoy the day. Feel free to email me if you would like to get involved.

I love how Tangata Whenua are inviting people from all cultures to get involved and are ensuring that the event is run with the utmost respect for the land that is so important to them culturally, by running it zero waste, having educational workshops and planting heritage species of flax.

As a pākehā that is learning about land protection, so that my daughter's children might have the same opportunities that I have had - I know that we have a lot to learn from Mātauranga Māori.

We just need to calm down our hectic lifestyles and respect Māori values by working in real collaboration with Tangata Whenua, rather than just ticking boxes for the Treaty.

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