7th Joint Conference: “Preservation of Ancient Cultures and the Globalization Scenario”.
School of Maori and Pacific Development & International Centre for Cultural Studies
(ICCS), India, 22–24 November 2002. Te Whare Wananga o Waikato, University of
Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand.
Indigenous concepts, values and knowledge for sustainable development: New
Zealand case studies
Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, Private Bag 11052, Palmerston North
Maori Sustainable Development in Aotearoa-New Zealand is a term reflecting the
aspirations of contemporary Maori. It describes holistic development and a strategic
direction towards advancement, Maori autonomy, self-determination, the building of
human and social capacity, to capitalise on opportunities in the 21st century.
Achievement may be measured through improved Maori wellbeing and standards of
health, increased human and social capacity, strength of cultural identity, sustainable
management of natural resources, and culturally appropriate strategies for economic
growth. Central to this holistic development are Maori values, a strong sense of cultural
identity and purpose, and the retention and use of Maori knowledge.
This paper provides examples of how Maori are using indigenous approaches, founded
on traditional concepts, to respond to increasing pressures and opportunities in a complex
world of free market economies, competition, exploitation, privatisation, Westernisation
of culture, environmental degradation, and increasing globalisation. Case studies are
given on Maori strategic planning, use of Maori knowledge, information technology, and
environmental planning and monitoring where indigenous approaches and perspectives
Indigenous cultures are under enormous threat from burgeoning globalisation as
evidenced by: decreasing indigenous populations, disproportionately high poor health
standards, disparaties in employment to non-indigenous populations, relatively high
crime rates, marginalisation from traditional homelands, threats to natural resources,
degradation of the natural and spiritual environment, decrease in the use of indigenous
languages and cultural practice, rapid social readjustment and transformation, breakdown
of traditional societal values and traditions, and loss of traditional knowledge.
Indigenous cultures are being increasingly swamped by a tide of global amorphous
cultures dominated by capitalism, consumerism, and Westernisation, which are being
used to define a new set of core values and principles based on these ideologies.
Futhermore, “globalisation carries the threat of homogenisation and uniformalisation”
(UNESCO 1998), and under Westernisation we are often compelled towards
individualism rather than communal cooperation, sharing and caring. Since colonisation,
indigenous peoples in New Zealand have suffered continual undermining of their culture
through constitutional and legislative oppression and rapid societal transformation.
Globalisation comes at the end of this repressive wave, but offers both opportunity as
well as disadvantage. Maori individually and collectively are developing many responses
to this new era of cultural domination, with contemporary Maori defining their own
aspirations, realities and goals in this new world (Durie 1998, 2000; White 2000).
So where is the hope within this global struggle? The survival of indigenous culture,
including values and knowledge, will require positive steps based on explicit models,
processes and systems to counter the tide of a ubiquitous global culture fuelled by
Western values and exploitation. It also relies on an indigeneous renaissance that takes
traditional concepts and values and sets them equally in a contemporary context next to
Western concepts and values, as a basis for living. This will require acknowledgement of
the place and richness of indigenous culture within the global environment, and the
opportunities for indigenous concepts and values to provide solutions to complex and
compounding world problems. Indigeneous values will also be at the heart of any re-
awakening of ideologies not based on Westernisation.
A glimmer of hope has become patches of reality in countries such as New Zealand,
where, from central government to the community level, examples provide increased
recognition of the importance of indigeneous culture and knowledge (Nuffic 2002).
Within the international and New Zealand arena examples illustrate a realignment of
indigenous concepts and values with contemporary Western thinking. This is evidenced
through, for example: international and NZ environmental and research projects that
acknowledge and use indigenous knowledge systems; obligations and requirements to
indigeneous culture under NZ and international conventions and agreements; projects that
empower indigenous groups; the promotion of collaborative learning with indgeneous
groups; the growth of projects led by indigeneous groups; increased recognition and use
of indigenous culture and language through schools and universities; devolution of health
and social services to indigenous groups; participatory and community planning; use of
indigeneous concepts in environmental management, environmental monitoring, and
biodiversity; the paradigm shift towards holistic thinking about watershed or integrated
catchment management; capacity building programmes for indigenous peoples; social
policy and planning to achieve indigenous aspirations; and indigeneous-led strategic
planning for sustainable development and economic growth.
Maori Sustainable Development
One of the best responses to globalisation pressures is for indigenous peoples to take
control of their own lives and destiny through some form of strategic direction (Durie
2000) that can be used as a pathway to empowerment, less dependency, and more active
engagement and participation in planning, policy and research. A strategy for sustainable
development, with a focus on building human and social capacity in areas such as
education and research, provides one mechanism for empowerment. Maori Sustainable
Development in Aotearoa-New Zealand is a term reflecting the aspirations of
contemporary Maori. It describes holistic development and a strategic direction towards
advancement and Maori self-determination (Durie 1998), providing a pathway toward
cultural revitalisation, resilience, and the building of human and social capacity (White
Central to this holistic development are Maori values, a strong sense of cultural identity
and purpose, and the retention and use of Maori knowledge. It is a constructive attempt to
tackle the effects of globalisation from the perspective of a minority culture. The
following four case studies aim to rightfully position and strengthen indigenous culture in
New Zealand, particularly at an operational and research level, and have been essential
steps for building human and social capacity for the groups involved. The real measure
of these case studies is their contribution to Maori aspirations through one or more of the
following areas: improved Maori wellbeing and standards of health; increased human and
social capacity; strength of cultural identity; sustainable management of natural
resources; and culturally appropriate strategies for economic growth:
• Case study 1: Strategic planning by Maori organisations;
• Case study 2: Use of traditional Maori knowledge in advancement and research;
• Case study 3: Development of Maori information systems;
• Case study 4: Use of environmental indicators based on Maori knowledge and
concepts to assess environmental change.
Case study 1: Strategic planning by Maori organisations
Maori organisations commonly administer large amounts of assets on behalf of, and for
the general benefit of constituents or beneficiaries, to provide services, and to represent
their constituency in a range of political, social, environmental and economic forums.
This responsibility means the organisation must have a clear purpose and direction and
explain its present activities and future plans clearly to its constituency and beneficiaries.
Their accountability to date has been focused mainly on financial or economic reporting,
as required under New Zealand legislation (Loomis 2000). To date a large number of
Maori organisations have carried out, or are carrying out, strategic planning (Winiata
1975, 2000; White 2000; Harmsworth et al. 2002a) toward multiple social, cultural,
environmental and economic outcomes. Most plans focus on protection and enhancement
of cultural values, revalitalisation of cultural tradition, more targeted delivery of health
and social services, a more active role in education, training and employment, and
implementation of strategies to promote and facilitate economic growth through a range
of Maori industries and businesses. Through these plans most Maori organisations are
seeking to establish a cultural identity for their organisation within a tide of
Westernisation. It is difficult at this stage to know just how successful this strategic
planning will be, but it suggests that empowerment and Maori self-determination can be
achieved through such responses. The actions from most plans are contributing, in
varying degrees to improved Maori wellbeing and standards of health, increased human
and social capacity, enhancement of cultural values and identity, sustainable management
of natural resources, and culturally appropriate strategies for economic growth.
Research carried out between 1998 and 2002 (Harmsworth et al. 2002a) identified a
number of commonalities existing in the planning frameworks and approaches used by
most Maori organisations. Three main stages were recognised as providing a Maori
sustainable development framework (Figure 1):
• Identifying and understanding Maori values
• Determining the iwi or hapu vision, the mission, and establishing strategic goals
and objectives, the strategic planning process
• Developing resource inventories and planning information systems to support
strategic planning and to assess performance
Table 1: Most planning was based on a core set of traditional values
Iwitanga: (e.g., Ngati…tanga, Ngai…tanga, Te…tanga): expression and celebration of
those qualities and characteristics that make an iwi or hapu unique and underpin a shared
whakapapa, history and identity.
Whakapapa: geneaological descent, heredity, lineage. The ordered relationship,
structured lineage, and descentency from the universe, through atua, to land, air, water,
Tino Rangatiratanga, Rangatiratanga, Mana Motuhake: acts of authority, self-
determination, and power.
Mana Whenua, Mana Moana: legitimacy to control, manage, and administer land, water
and marine resources.
Manaakitanga: reciprocal and unqualified acts of giving, caring, hospitality.
Arohatanga, Aroha: care, love and respect.
Awhinatanga: assist, help, care for, give assistance and help to others.
Whanaungatanga: the bonds of kinship that exist within and between whanau, hapu, and
iwi, belonging, togetherness, relatedness.
Whakakotahitanga, kotahitanga: respect for individual differences and the desire to reach
consensus, unity, solidarity.
Koha, Whakakoha, koha: acts of giving.
Tau utuutu: acts of always giving back or replacing what you take or receive, reciprocity.
Whakapono: act of believing or having faith and trust in others, or in a system or
Wehi: reverence, act of being in awe.
Turangawaewae: having a place of standing, belonging, and security.
Kaitiakitanga: stewardship or guardianship of the environment.
Kokiri: an act of going forward, being competitive.
Te Aoturoa: the interdependence with the natural environment, the cosmological
relationship and responsibilities of Maori in relation to the whole and parts of the
Taonga tuku iho: (e.g., te reo Maori, wahi taonga, taonga whakairo): the notion of
recognising and holding on to the treasures and knowledge passed on from ancestors.
Includes preservation of taonga to look after, house, protect, and manage taonga, such as
natural resources, te reo Maori, and whakairo on behalf of iwi, hapu, and whanau.
Wairuatanga: the spiritual dimension.
Traditional values were described as highly relevant in modern day Maori society and
fundamental for forming principles and a guiding philosophy for culturally based
sustainable development. This means Maori organisations are based on more than just
descent from Maori, and that values and knowledge are still fundamental components of
contemporary Maori society and help separate a Maori organisation from a non-Maori
organisation. These values help build an organisational or company “culture”.
Case study 2: Use of traditional Maori knowledge in advancement and research
A number of projects are recording and documenting Maori knowledge, inlcuding
matauranga Maori (traditional Maori knowledge), which is often specific to tribes such as
iwi and hapu. This type of knowledge takes many forms and includes: te reo (language),
karakia (prayers), waiata (songs), whakatauki or pepeha (proverbs), traditional
environmental knowledge (taonga tuku iho, matauranga o te taiao), traditional knowledge
of cultural practice, such as raranga (weaving), rongoa (healing and medicines) whakairo
(carving), kaimona (fishing), mahinga kai (cultivation). Traditionally, knowledge was
passed down through Maori society using wananga (learning schools) and tohunga
(knowledgeable specialists) who used and applied knowledge for a common good.
Tohunga were banned from retaining and passing on knowledge under the Tohunga
Suppression Act 1907.
A large amount of Maori knowledge has been lost in New Zealand from many previous
generations, and this continues at an alarming rate as the indigenous population ages.
There have been many attempts to record general knowledge in popular books, mainly by
European authors, and more recently through Maori scholars in universities, wananga,
tribal researchers, and other research organisations. For many tribes, research for Treaty
of Waitangi claims has been both a central catalyst for recording cultural knowledge and
a positive way for developing a research capability.
More recently, central Government has taken an interest in allocating small amounts of
funding for the recording and retention of Maori knowledge, through science and, to
some extent, through environmental programmes. Since the 1970s there have been
growing commitment and leadership from Maori university staff, tribal wananga, and the
development of Maori language schools to advance te reo (language) tikanga (culture,
custom) and matauranga (traditional knowledge). This has transformed the number of
competent Maori speakers in the country from around 60,000 in 1975 to 150,000 in 2002,
with around 10% of these considered fluent. In 1975 fewer than 5% of Maori
schoolchildren could speak Maori.
In science and environmental programmes, traditional knowledge is finding resurgent
interest in: Maori health, wildlife management, integrated catchment management,
ecological research, biodiversity projects, customary harvest of native birds, intellectual
property rights of flora and fauna, sustainable management of natural resources, and
environmental monitoring. Maori knowledge is helping to improve understanding of
catchment and ecological processes, frameworks and concepts for sustainable
management of natural resources. It is also helping to identify and understand spatial and
temporal environmental change, and Maori perspectives of the environment to assess
Case study 3: Development of Maori information systems
Since the 1980s Maori have become increasingly interested in contemporary Maori
information systems, complementary to traditional oral transfer and storage of knowledge
(Harmsworth 1995, 1997a,b, 1998; Harmsworth et al. 2002a, Winiata 1988). The
recording, collation, archiving, presentation, and analysis of relevant information will
provide the basis of any tribal, iwi or hapu information system. This growing interest has
been the result of, for example: strategic planning, Treaty of Waitangi claims, iwi and
hapu management plans, the reclaiming of taonga, development of historical records,
property maintenace and development, environmental management. The interest is also a
basis to support actions of kaitiakitanga (environmental guardianship). These information
systems, often specific to a tribe or group, can contain taonga collections (treasures),
maps, books, archives, Treaty claim reports, papers on whakapapa (tribal and family
ancestry) historical information, photo archives, cultural heritage and natural resource
layers, property information, financial data, socio-demographic data, economic data,
matauranga, and Maori knowledge. Confidential or sensitive information is usually kept
separate and protected. New contemporary forms of information system, such as
Geographic Information Systems (GIS), internet, computer models, spreadsheets,
electronic storage, may be developed alongside traditional Maori forms of knowledge and
systems for knowledge transfer (Table 2).
Table 2: Form and application of knowledge
Type or form of knowledge Source of knowledge and systems of
kaumatua, kuia, iwi and hapu representatives Oral knowledge
Hard copy books, publications, theses, papers, reports,
files, records, maps
database files, records, spreadsheets, GIS,
internet data, www
Part of these information systems has been the promotion of tribal resource inventories
(Winiata 1998, 2000; Harmsworth et al. 2002a [Appendix 1]). Resource inventories have
been touted as ways for tribal organisations to take stock or develop tribal accounts of
their assets and available resources, to plan growth of these assets and resources in
accordance with tribal aspirations and goals, and to help measure their performance for
attaining goals and aspirations. They can also be used to measure iwi and hapu health
and wellbeing (Winiata 1998, 2000), and cultural identity and integrity (Durie 1998;
White 2000; Potiki 2000) at some point in time. Harmsworth et al. (2002a) grouped
resource inventoiries into:
• Human/Social: understanding human resources, people resources, human capital,
human capacity, human capability, he tangata he tangata;
• Cultural: understanding cultural resources, cultural vibrancy, cultural integrity,
Maori values, tikanga Maori;
• Physical: understanding physical resources, natural resources, access to natural
resources, physical state and condition, land and coastal characteristics, condition,
and use, mana whenua, awa, moana, etc.;
• Economic: understanding available economic resources, economic capital,
investments, economic potential.
Each group listed a large number of indicators (Appendix 1) that can be used to plan and
develop tribal information systems and to monitor progress towards goals and objectives.
For each key resource indicator it was important to write down information on:
• the information required, the key resource indicators;
• the geographic area they cover;
• where the information is presently located, its source;
• access, availability, confidentiality and property rights;
• the form the information is in and its application or end-use.
A definite cultural imprint is used to design and develop Maori information systems.
An essential part of an indigenous information system is people, such as knowledgeable
Maori elders or kaumatua (Table 2). Because Maori knowledge is a taonga (treasure) in
its own right it is imperative to consider intellectual property rights and protocols
carefully when establishing information systems.
Case study 4: Use of environmental indicators based on Maori knowledge and
concepts to assess environmental change.
Environmental research in New Zealand is increasingly concerned with indigenous
perspectives requiring increased contribution from Maori knowledge and tikanga
(customs). Recent examples include environmental programmes such as the national
environmental indicators programme that aims at having Maori participate in
environmental monitoring. This and associated projects have funded the development of
Maori environmental indicators as a way of encouraging a Maori perspective for
assessing the state of the environment. The indicators have generally been based on
Maori knowledge and Maori concepts very specific to Maori communities, such as iwi
and hapu, for any future assessment. In a project to assess wetlands for the country
(Harmsworth 2002b), Maori indicators were based on Maori environmental concepts
such as kaitiakiatanga (guradianship), whakapapa, (ancestral links), mauri (life force) and
taonga (treasures, natural flora and fauna). Again the development of Maori indicators
takes place within a context of Maori environmental aspirations and goals.
Maori Sustainable Development describes holistic development and a strategic direction
towards Maori self-determination (Durie 1998), made up primarily of advancement and
protection of the environment for future generations. Maori self-determination has been
defined as “practically and intimately bound to the aspirations and hopes within which
contemporary Maori live” (Durie 1998). Four case studies have been presented as
examples of constructive responses to Westernisation, and provide mechansms and
processes to protect and enhance cultural identity and purpose. The actions and initiatives
in each case study are helping to advance Maori people as Maori, and have goals to
protect the environment for future generations. Although the context within which
indigenous groups plan, cooperate, and advance is often within a Western paradigm of
legislative, political, and international frameworks, all are positioned to contribute to
fundamental goals and aims for Maori self-determination. The case studies are in
combination part of a commitment to strengthening economic standing, social well-being,
and cultural identity. They all contribute to political representation and active
management at all levels, including better self-management of natural resources, greater
productivity of Maori land, active promotion of Maori health, sound education, enhanced
use of the Maori language, and decision making that reflects Maori realities and
aspirations. They are consistent with the spirit of development and the need for change,
as cultural fossilisation is not consistent with Maori self-determination (Durie 1998).
In all examples, traditional values and knowledge are seen as increasingly relevant in a
complex world, where new holistic perspectives and ideas need to be integrated to find
solutions to global problems. In many areas we are seeing a realignment of indigenous
and Western thinking, a new appreciation and acknowledgement of indigenous concepts,
values and knowledge, and a desire by many organisations to collaborate with indigenous
peoples to work towards common goals. Traditional knowledge forms are increasingly
being recognised worldwide as a means to help find solutions to complex problems, to
enhance understanding of our environment, to provide a basis for strengthening cultural
identity, and to develop economic opportunities.
Indigenous values and knowledge therefore provide the platform for cultural diversity
and enrichment in a global environment. If cultural enrichment and vitality is synonmous
with the concerns over decreasing world biodiversity, we could argue that the two are in
fact related and form our basis for human survival.
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Auckland: Oxford University Press. 280 pp.
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of the New Zealand Association of Resource Management, February 1997. Pp.
Harmsworth, G.R. (1997b). Maori values and GIS: The New Zealand Experience. GIS
Asia Pacific: The Geographic Technology Publication for the Asia Pacific
Region. April 1997. Pp. 40–43.
Harmsworth, G.R. (1998). Indigenous values and GIS: A method and framework.
Indigenous Knowledge and Development Monitor. Netherlands organisation for
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in the 21st Century: The importance of Maori values, strategic planning, and
information systems. He Puna Korero, Journal of Maori and Pacific
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condition and trend. Coordinated Monitoring of New Zealand Wetlands, Phase
2, Goal 2. A Ministry for the Environment SMF Project–5105. Landcare
Research Report LC 0102/099. 65 pp.
Loomis, T.M. (2000). Indigenous Populations and Sustainable Development: Building
on Indigenous Approaches to Holistic, Self-Determined Development. World
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Netherlands Organisation for International Cooperation in Higher Education (Nuffic)
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Mana, Toi Te Whenua Conference on Maori Development in a Global Society
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Table 1: Key resource indicators broadly organised into the main groups: Human,
Cultural, Physical, and Economic
Population figures for iwi and hapu;
Numbers represented, the constituency of an iwi authority or Maori organisation;
Numbers living in tribal rohe;
Numbers living away from area, rohe, urban/rural;
Age statistics, age profile;
Number of unemployed;
Number of employed;
Average family size, whanau size;
Average and median family income;
Religious affiliation; dominant religious affiliation for marae and hapu;
Number of Maori health professionals/types for iwi/hapu;
Range of people skills; range and type of academic qualifications; range of trade
qualifications; number of people with tertiary qualifications; number of people with
business expertise; number of people with managerial and/or administration skills;
number of people with tourism skills; number of people with environmental skills;
number of people with land-based skills; number of people with science and/or
technology skills; number of people with expertise in horticulture, forestry, and
agriculture; number of people with expertise in the fishing industry or aquaculture;
Number of affiliated organisations and komitis, and type (e.g., marae, Maori industry
groups, Maori networks).
Number of and condition of marae;
Number of kaumatua/kuia;
Number of Tohunga (experts) and people authoritative on tikanga and kawa;
Number of authoritative practitioners willing to share knowledge (e.g., te reo, waiata,
karakia, whakairo, rongoa, raranga, whatu, whakapapa);
Number of people who still practice oral transfer of tribal knowledge;
Number of people conversant or with skills in matauranga Maori;
Number/proportion of spiritual leaders;
Number of cultural training courses offered;
Number of cultural training centres;
Number of cultural training centres run solely by Maori organisations/individuals;
Number/proportion of fluent speakers of te reo Maori;
Number of people learning te reo Maori;
Number of tamariki in kohanga reo;
Number of tamariki in kura kaupapa and bi-lingual units;
Number/proportion of people who have established principles of tikanga and kawa in
Number/proportion who see importance of Maori values in Maori development and
Inventories of wahi tapu;
Inventories of Maori cultural sites; whakairo;
Inventories of taonga;
Inventories of cultural and natural resources;
Cultural inventories of vegetation (e.g., native bush taonga, indigenous forest, indigenous
scrub, wetlands, sand country, etc.);
Cultural inventories of medicinal plants (e.g., rongoa);
Cultural inventories of plants for weaving (e.g., raranga, whatu);
Cultural inventories of freshwater (lake and rivers), geothermal, and marine
Information on tribal history; Waitangi tribal reports; records of whakapapa; no. of books
on tribal history and whakapapa; no.of manuscripts on tribal history and whakapapa.
Total area of land holdings, coastal areas for iwi, trusts, etc.;
Location of land holdings, coastal areas, moana;
Location of land blocks, freshwater and coastal areas, under Treaty claim;
Present land-use for iwi rohe and for land blocks, trusts, etc.;
Location and area of land-use types (e.g., agriculture, farming, horticulture forestry,
Physical land type/characteristics of land resources (e.g., landforms, soil class, soil type;
soil properties, slope, land-use capability (LUC), etc.;
High class land;
Area of urban versus rural land, land zoning;
Land value, $/ha;
Inventories of land-use (e.g., dairying, beef and sheep, horticulture, forestry etc.);
Inventories of freshwater (lakes and rivers), geothermal, and marine environments (e.g.,
total species, type, habitat, ecology);
Access to, and/or management/policy of land (e.g., all land, forestry, urban, DOC estate,
Maori land blocks);
Access to, and/or management/policy of freshwater (lake and rivers), geothermal, and Download full-text
Inventories of natural resource taonga; inventories of native bush (indigenous forest);
inventories of wetlands, no. of wetlands; culturally significant plants; inventories of rock
Access to, and/or management/policy of natural resource taonga: (e.g., ngahere,
indigenous forest, land, geothermal areas, lakes, coastal, intellectual property rights, wahi
Number of Maori businesses/services with links to iwi authority, Maori organisation;
Number of iwi businesses/services owned, managed, administered;
Maori land trusts or other trusts and type of organisation (e.g. Ahu Whenua Trusts,
Whanau Trusts, Putea Trusts, Incorporations, Land Komitis);
Total area of Maori freehold land; total area of Maori land; no. of owners/shareholders/
beneficiaries for each land block;
Industry type, range of industry;
Farming (e.g. no. of stock, type of stock, su/ha);
Total properties; land holdings; buildings; rental properties;
Statement of financial performance; total or net assets; fixed assets; non-current assets,
total debts or total liabilities; expenses; equity; shares; income generation; sources of
Access to capital (i.e. examples/barriers);
Expenditure on training and development;
Other natural resource assets/natural resource inventories and/or accounts;
Number of, condition, and use of marae;
Areas under Treaty Claim;
Fishing interests (Kai moana).
Note: Full references and a location address should be given for each resource indicator
to identify where they came from, to acknowledge source and intellectual property, and
to provide information on any access or confidentiality requirements.