Ngākau mōhio – Understanding

Kapiti coast
Advocacy Update

To fix our future, ensure we have a livable planet for future generations, we must look to the past. Our ancestors knew how-to live-in harmony with nature, so where did we go wrong? 

Our ancestors had intimate knowledge of interconnected environments, weather patterns, seasonal changes, and an innate ability to adjust. Māori have a long history of adaptation as we came from much warmer Hawaikii climates in Polynesia to a temperate Aotearoa, on numerous sailing voyages across a vast ocean.  Expert navigators drew on ancient knowledge, handed down through oral traditions, assisted with guidance of tohunga, taniwha, taiao and the stars. Extreme weather and circumstances on the trips were fought with a ferocity that strengthened our ability to survive the journeys, explore new terrains, and become the warriors we continue to be in this contemporary world. Māori continue to endure by navigating lessons of te taiao, spirituality and diplomacy to achieve a future that is not only fit for purpose but thriving with resilience for generations to come. 

Over the centuries, Māori have an extensive investiture on their ancestral land and waterscapes. It is this knowledge and their worldviews that are pivotal to building resilience to environmental issues throughout Aotearoa. Iwi have witnessed numerous historical accounts of devastation to our environment from the depletion of resources on islands within the Pacific, through to the extinction of Moa within our nation’s islands, to the effects of European settlers with their economic-centred values arriving in New Zealand, to the inadequate environmental management measures of the Crown since the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Our collective experiential learnings draw on genealogical links to nature —treasuring natural phenomena, ancestral sites, and all species like members of our family. It is this cultural understanding, which ensures a sense of responsibility, relatedness, and respect, that we all should include in our daily lives as citizens of New Zealand. Collaborative action-on-the-ground utilising iwi and community-led approaches are building resilience along waterways, wetlands, and coastlines, but more urgency is now required to address the biodiversity and climate crises our nation now faces. 

Extreme weather patterns and major changes in seasonal patterns are increasing in frequency and we are being called upon to adapt in order to protect over 4000 at-risk species and ourselves. Tornadoes are now routinely causing property damage. We are experiencing an increase in major flooding events throughout the country and cyclone activity is also on the rise, taking lives, and causing devastation to homes, farms, and communities. Our lives and livelihoods are under threat.   But it’s not just extreme weather affecting our nation, it’s also the bizarre seasonal patterns causing havoc to horticulture and agricultural sectors.  We can’t ignore the creeping destruction of habitats and the casualties of our many vulnerable species, including ourselves.

For decades indigenous people and scientists of climate change have voiced concern, but now that we are listening to the willingness to adapt and mitigate are we willing to take the measures necessary to ensure the survival of our species as well as others?

Here is how we can survive: 

Tying past knowledge and centuries of tradition with modern guidance of experts in both mātauranga Māori, science, and policy to collaborate on whole system approaches. National and local policies are incorporating mātauranga Māori like we have never seen before, and we need to make them count with action on the ground and within our taiao. Iwi are more than capable of leading culturally appropriate and collaborative adaptation strategies and funding along with support is critical for success in this sector. Drawing on the strength of deities and other supernatural beings may be required to reverse the severe global damage we as humans have done to this planet. But because they may have given up on our recent ignorance, we should do all that is within our power to change. 

United strength is required to reduce human impact on our country, ensure species survival and save the world as we know it. Collective movements and decision making are traditional Māori practices that are mana enhancing and highly recommended especially in catchments and coastal regions. Ferocious large scale native planting projects that interconnect through all terrains will provide green biodiversity corridors, spongy environments, soak pads and carbon sequestration solutions. Let us face these challenges together as Native Natural Warriors and once again show the world how it is done.

Māori unapologetically draw upon ancestral links to this land and taiao, we are unique in a special way that should not cause concern to others. Our worldview is valid, as is the myriad of others. Aotearoa has a mauri that speaks to every single person who steps foot onto these soils. All of us have ancestors who lead us to where we are today. All of us have culture, too. Let’s unite to save our planet for future generations and celebrate a combined purpose to ensure we leave our environment in a better place than we inherited it. A resilient thriving environment for generations.

Tenā te ngaru whati, tēnā te ngaru puku.
There is a wave that breaks, there is a wave that swells.

Aroha selfie

Dr Aroha Spinks