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Waitangi Day Speech: Responsibility for Our Place

[“State of the Nation” address at Te Tii Marae Waitangi, 6th February 2006]

Response: Responsibility for Our Place
February 4th 2006.

He mihi nui ki a koutou.
Greetings to Ngati Wai and Ngati Hine, Ngati Hou and Te Parawhau
All strength to you in your kaitiakitanga responsibilities

Greetings to Network Waitangi Whangrei and all of you who keep the fires of te Tiriti o Waitangi alight.

We work in many different spheres, the law, government departments, local and regional councils, community education, research. I extend to you strength of mind, courage of heart and generosity in your hands for he breadth and depth of work as advocates and activists for te Tiriti. Along with these, the wisdom from your experience to undertake all that we can in our time.

It is a priority to come to the flapping tail of the fish at this time. On this occasion I come from the head of the fish – te upoko te ika and am reminded of the organic relationship between those from the tail who give momentum to the way ahead, and those at the head who make decisions for the whole. Over the years I have had a good deal of time in the heart of the fish, Lake Taupo, and will speak from the heart of my experience there.


I note mention of the fast I did for the foreshore. The fast was to signal Pakeha support for customary titles to the Foreshore, and for government to abide by a Te Tiriti analysis, or at least to follow the direction of the High Court.

[ Fasting comes from a tradition of preparation and cleansing to intercede for a cause, or a particular task a person may set out to accomplish. It is an action that is usually anathema to activists, yet Gandhi used fasting to pressure the British to leave India. It has beneficial health effects, and in the more intense focus created by a fast, is a way of calling on the higher energies of the universe to influence a situation, and we needed all the forces that could be summoned to prevent the Foreshore confiscation.]


I will touch on 3 areas – all dear to my heart: local kaitiaki practice in the Turangi area, the wider Pacific context in which to be considering Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the state of our nation, and some philosophical reflections for the Tiriti situation. I am addressing the priority of taking care of the environment within a te Tiriti framework.

I am speaking of an ethic of environmental responsibility rather than a rights approach, such as rights of access and recreation. If we think about it all rights have corresponding responsibilities. An ethic of responsibility moves from conflict and struggles for power to respectful relational process. In policy terms, such as under the RMA, such an ethics can be expressed as co-management.

[We have been well directed to regard te Tiriti as a whole. We seek a structure, a system and citizen support for side by side provision for kawanatanga and tino rangatiratanga.

The Human Rights dimensions of the Treaty have been innovatively brought into public arena by projects of the Human Rights Commission, taking the lead from the 3rd article. Rights emphasis the entitlements of the Treaty, the rights contained in rangatiratanga and in the law, such as that of aboriginal tile. I am interested in the responsibility, obligation and duties dimensions in legal writing. They are less often noted, yet bring forward a collective orientation and the onus of obligation on the Crown, an obligation which supercedes the historically embedded assertion of sovereignty which is driven by domination, with an ethical responsibility to uphold te Tiriti constitutionally, to protect taonga, work with a Te Tiriti framework in national development and eliminate social inequity].

We are reminded of land sea resource and asset priorities of Te Tiriti by the Nga Puhi proposal to seek settlement of their claim only through return of land, and to do so through an international body such as the UN. The Seabed and Foreshore may have appeared to be about access, but it was about assets and resources. This is verified in noting the applications for iron sands mining since the Foreshore legislation. There are applications from multinationals for most of the west coast of the north and south islands, and for Golden bay, near Nelson. The responsibility of the crown to safeguard the environment and ensure sustainable resource use needs to be done in a te Tiriti framework.


Through a series of events which are stories not to be told tonight, the opportunity was brought to me to be associated with a kaitiakitanga hapu initiative in Turangi….
After years of working with te Tiriti o Waitiangi in education, I became part of a hapu initiative where the korero and the mahi and the vision is caring for land and people – kaitiakitanga.

I was introduced to a landscape I had never seen. The guiding tikanga comes from Rongomai, the atua of cultivation and harmony. Pihanga, is the female mountain, who shapes the contours of the land, with nearby hills as her fingers and the flatter fields as the palm of her hand. Her extended hand of welcome, referred to as the ‘ringa powhiri’, expanded the female symbolism to convey the karanga, the calling of women to initiate the protocols of meeting between hosts and guests. From her palm water flows to the lake. This is Earth the mother.

My observation became trained to observe a landscape in danger - sluggish turgid water in streams, no sound of the ruru, smelling sewerage and seeing the signs of black water seeping into a lake.

This is a hapu that is undertaking environmental enhancement on ancestral land – restoring a wetland by planting indigenous trees, growing kai mara / organic produce, installing sustainable energy systems in the whare kai under construction, no main grid electricity or council water systems. It is always spoken of as implementing kaitiakitanga, which means caring for the land and the people – not only people of the hapu, for whom the vision is to become self-sustaining, but for the wider community by providing active responsibility for the waterways by careful practices on adjacent land.

The word enhancement is a deliberate proactive concept to account for degradation in a scenic place where native fish are replaced by trout, management of fisheries by hapu is replaced by DoC, and pine forests are everywhere. My wonder in the scenic environment of Lake Taupo has been redirected to seeing the sewage plant too close to the lake and listening to kuia’s accounts of the refusal of the council to make and implement plans for a system that is safe for the lake.

When there is talk of Te Tiriti it is always framed in terms of the exercise of tino rangatiratanga by hapu. Always there is the chart to course between a relational world view where shared commitments, generosity and inclusiveness guide visions and strategies, and the ‘landscape of loss’ [as I have heard elsewhere]. I say to myself often – what on earth would it take for us to establish trustworthy agreements and implement governance shared governance?

Hapu and Crown

Nearby another activity is going on between a committee of hapu and Corrlands, the arm of Corrections which manages the prison estates. A protocol has been in place for 7 years after about 25 years of negotiation, and against a back ground of the theft of land and desecration of wahi tapu during milling operations. What has been noticeable in researching the parties to the protocol and the programme of land management has been that this is about forging a relationship. The driving force was to achieve a process of respect and protection of taonga tapu through an environmental enhancement programme. Those who created the protocol were well aware that a framework of taonga tapu does invoke the Treaty, and the dimension of Crown obligation.

Corrlands have environmental obligations in their land management under the RMA, and obligations to protect taonga under several acts, such as the Historic Places. Under the protocol where ever taonga are found, logging ceases and a process of planting the area on native trees protects the ancestral, historical and the environmental taonga. The protocol provides the system and structure. However the personnel are a key to the effectiveness – the manager said to me ‘well its all Maori land anyway! Here we can see the evolotution of co-management through a practice of collaboration and mutual respect in a local site. It happens in many parts of NZ. What is still needed is policy frameworks to establish this in all resource management.

It is important to say that the protocol is in jeopardy with government failure to consult with this committee, which was signed by the Minister of Justice in 1989 over the expansion of the prison. The committee are objecting to the expansion on environmental grounds – the pressure on the lake environment and water systems, on the biodiversity of birds with the introduction of more toxic materials.

So there are some examples of local hapu centred initiatives for which we have no national structure or systems to drive implementation.


In the story from Turangi we see what is being played out in Pacific nations – the effect of commercial resource exploitation which over-rides the rights and responsibilities of indigenous people, and conflict that comes of it.

[Over the summer I have been turning my attention to our wider regional context – the Pacific / Oceana / the Liquid Continent. At a Colloquium in Samoa it became very clear to me, without know lots of details of governance in the Pacific, that the matter of Westminster systems introduced to exert western interests in the Pacific are a not in accord with systems that derive from indigenous traditions.

In Pacific countries, including Aotearoa-NZ, land and sea are under more and more stress from the escalating scale of deep sea trawling, logging of indigenous forests and mining, the poisoning of water and reefs from transnational corporates and foreign companies. In Bouganville, Solomon Islands, Fiji and Papua commentators refer to the exploitation of natural resources lying behind many of the political conflicts and the breakdown in national security. The mining activities and environmental damage (of Conzinc Rio Tinto) in Bouganville, the exhaustion of hardwood forests through logging in the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Samoa, and mining in New Zealand, such as at Waimangaroa near Westport point to the wider context of globalized economic pressure and impact.]

Urgent regional action for governance of transnationals and for safeguarding for the sustainability of the region is required. We need Pacific indigenous people with knowledge and experience of Te Moana Nui a Kiwa to lead this process. Alongside indigenous leadership we need environmental responsibility to be driven by wisdom of ecology. Commercial exploitation cannot be the guide of provisions for environmental governance.

Collective ancestral indigenous governance of land and sea is still being exercised in many parts of the Pacific, a system that continues in fragmented ways in New Zealand but always in the shadow hostility from the Crown. The world view of the land and sea being in continuity and all to be managed to sustain biodiversity and the ongoing viability of the community is in juxtaposition with far bigger forces of rights to property, unencumbered entitlements to research and exploit resources, the imperative of commerce, trade and profit, and multinational corporates unrestricted by prodeedures of ethical governance.


I hope it is clear that in references to governance, kaitiakitanga and resource management, and the wider Pacific context of Aotearoa-New Zealand, I am referring to indigenous and western world views, in my view profoundly different world views.

The western world view is shaped by a legacy of private property, the pre-eminence of the individual, a patriarchal history. It is shaped by a church and state where a sovereign god, a sovereign state became transposed into the concept of sovereign individuals. We can remember that these were fought for by our ancestors and forbears for liberative purposes – to free people to have a say in government, to be entitled to the products of their work, and to pursue knowledge. Transplanted as Westminster democracy they oppress indigenous systems and world views.

The western tradition is built on separations, the split between nature and culture, between matter and spirit, between mind and body. Women and men have investigated the violence of our histories and traditions and are posing another way of being: relational, wholistic, respectful of earth. Those who have understood the effects of exploitation have been warning us for a long time that we must seek sustainable economies.

Our task is to give priority to traditions evolved in response to this place in environmental and resource management. These express the wisdom of centuries of navigating this ocean and sustaining life here. In preparation for coming to Whangarei and Waitangi I re-read Justice Eddie Durie’s paper ‘When will the Settlers Settle?’ It is an exposition of Maori ancestral law and land tenure. It corresponds with my own quest to make provision for the co-existence of two world views; for indigenous governance along with the Crown, as handed down to us in te Tiriti o Waitangi.

The assertion of sovereignty has always been a strategy for refusing to engage with the real force of Te Tiriti. Sian Elias, in a not so well known paper squeaked the legal door open to divided sovereignty.

While many of us are also part of a process of reworking the systems and the world view we come from and are part of. We are in a process of regeneration as Pakeha so that we can become calibrated to live and work respectfully of tino rangatiratanga and kaitiakitanga.

In the swell of responsiveness to the environmental crisis our quest must be to heal the split between nature and culture.. Ecology is a system which recognizes the interconnectedness of all life forms. Interdependence and the health of the ecosystem comes from understanding that if the gecho / moko no longer appears, it is because the rivers are polluted and therefore the fish will be endangered, and food sources threatened.

Conflicts over the resources of land and sea need to be removed from contestations for power, particularly on the crown side. The future lies in ethical relationships of respect for difference from which collaboration can proceed. The many faceted efforts to constitutionalise te Tiriti, must be made through ethical process, processes of engagement that respect of the mana of tangata whenua and that step aside to make space for tino rangatiratanga in governance and in environmental management.

It is often said that supporting rangatiratanga is good for all Nzers. The Treaty provision in the SOE legislation meant that our forests were’nt sold. In chile, multinationals have bought most of the Mapuche land, and planted pines and eucalyptus, so that the Mapuche have little remaining land, and the water table is so low they cannot goow native trees or food. The health of the environment is broken, with consequences for the Mapuche as well as for Chile as a nation.

In many of our experiences, where we follow our ethical responsibility to support tangata whenua and hapu in the exercise of rangatiratanga, or hapu authority, an ethic of generosity and shared wisdom, come into play. The future open through the settlement of Treaty claims process is that we will evolve into becoming people of the Treaty and New Zealanders of the Pacific.


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