Te Ao Māori context
Acknowledging and upholding the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi is an integral part of the Aotearoa New Zealand perspective.
Māori knowledge, mātauranga, encompasses not only what is known, but how it is known – the way of perceiving and understanding the world, and the values and systems of thought that underpin those perceptions.
Mātauranga embraces all that is distinctive about Māori culture and identity (Waitangi Tribunal 2011). The defining principle is whānaungatanga, kinship, where all the elements of creation within the living and spiritual realms are interrelated.
All animate and inanimate elements are infused with mauri (spirit or living essence) and related through whakapapa.
An example of this is when the 2014 settlement between Whanganui iwi and the Crown upheld the mana of the Whanganui River, Te Awa Tupua, and recognised the intrinsic ties that bind Te Awa Tupua and its people to each other. Hence, in the Deed of Settlement, Te Awa Tupua is formally recognised as a legal entity, with its own rights and distinct relationship to the local iwi (Ruruku Whakatupua 2014).
Te Urewera Act 2014
The 2014 Act sets out the following:
Te Urewera is ancient and enduring, a fortress of nature, alive with history; its scenery is abundant with mystery, adventure, and remote beauty.
Te Urewera is a place of spiritual value, with its own mana and mauri.
Te Urewera has an identity in and of itself, inspiring people to commit to its care.
This approach intends to unite the shared views and intentions between Tūhoe and the Crown that Te Urewera should have legal recognition in its own right, with the responsibilities for its care and conservation set out in the law of New Zealand. To this end, Tūhoe and the Crown have together taken a unique approach, as set out in this Act, to protecting Te Urewera in a way that reflects New Zealand’s culture and values.
The purpose of this Act is to establish and preserve in perpetuity a legal identity and protected status for Te Urewera for its intrinsic worth, its distinctive natural and cultural values, the integrity of those values, and for its national importance, and in particular to—
(a) strengthen and maintain the connection between Tūhoe and Te Urewera; and
(b) preserve as far as possible the natural features and beauty of Te Urewera, the integrity of its indigenous ecological systems and biodiversity, and its historical and cultural heritage; and
(c) provide for Te Urewera as a place for public use and enjoyment, for recreation, learning, and spiritual reflection, and as an inspiration for all.
The creation of Te Urewera as its own entity has provided a win-win solution for Tūhoe and the Crown. Te Urewera Act demonstrates a new bi-cultural way of articulating the importance of national park lands for multiple reasons ranging from science to culture and will be of immense interest internationally for aspects concerning ownership, management and purpose.