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Iwi Case Validates Maori Kaitiakitanga Practices

Iwi Case Study Validates Maori Practices of Kaitiakitanga

Dodd, M. Tarawera River:Iwi Case Study Report on Ngati Awa, Tuwharetoa ki Kawerau and Te Arawa, Wairaka Communications, 2003.

Issues: Poison, pollutants, mauri, breach of customary law, eco-terrorism and the foreshore, jobs and income, kaitiakitanga, publishing and probing, Tarawera River, Ohinemataroa-Whakatane River, Rangitaiki River, Tasman Pulp & Paper Mill, local environmental management, dominant culture

A new report to be released this Friday at Te Taumata Art Gallery is to follow on from a 1997 case study about the Tarawera River that tells the cultural story of the river. The report provides in-depth insight into how both people and place have been displaced by the loss of the mauri of the river and it’s recomposition as a black drain of poison and pollutants. This type of loss is occurring throughout the Waiariki region.

The author of the report, Materoa Dodd is to speak at the opening of the exhibition Te Waiora E alongside kaumatua Joe Harawira and artist Aroha Ruha. The exhibition looks at an array of pollution issues impacting Iwi within the Waiariki region.

"The loss of the mauri of the Tarawera River is a powerful metaphor for the loss of a complex system of beliefs, values and understanding of the environment developed by Maori over a 1,000 years of environmental management and best practice. It is the system we have intrinsically known and recognised as customary law. It is a system that upheld the regeneration of our environment, and with respect assured the certainty of future generations. Customary law is a system that has been eroded by breach and infringement. Customary law is now threatened with being thrown off kilter by claims asserting the moral privilege of all New Zealanders to be able to eco-terrorise the foreshore in the name of the great Kiwi barbecue," Materoa Dodd said.

"The report looks for hope amidst despair that publishing and probing might raise awareness and understanding of the need to assert kaitiakitanga. The roosters have come home to roost in the case of the Tarawera and the communities must now make clear choices about how resources might now be managed. There is a stubborn refusal to accept a system that permits the destruction of our environment and future generations. In areas like the Tarawera and Ohinemataroa-Whakatane river estuarine environments, there is strong customary practice, knowledge and administration, and these are the fundamental means of empowering and restoring a sound system of local environmental management of our waterways. What is lacking is local and regional political commitment. What is ‘feared, [as] a huge step for the dominant culture… {is] a very modest step for Maori’," Materoa Dodd said.

Materoa Dodd is a Senior Lecturer in Governance and Legitimacy, and a Research Project Director at the School of Maori and Pacific Development, at the University of Waikato. Materoa is of Ngati Awa, and Ngai te Rangi descent.

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