A provocative view on the climate emergency from Māori

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In Aotearoa [NZ], the Treaty of Waitangi, signed in 1840 between the British Crown and local northern Maori, has for better or worse [with subsequent common law decisions and acts of parliament]defined the subsequent legal relationship between Māori and Pakeha [white settlers]. The following article, by a well respected Māori intellectual and leader, is an interesting position on the climate crisis and on government’s responsibility to address climate impacts on Maori under the Treaty. It raises some interesting points for the Crown’s role in the crisis relative to first nations here in Canada. Since confederation, eleven numbered treaties have been signed, but can a case be made that these confer some obligation on the Crown to do more than kick the climate crisis problem down the road, at least when it comes to those first nations? Does the infamous Indian Act give first nations any leverage? Can first nations compel the Crown to take actions that acknowledge these obligations?
The approximate translations of Maori have been provided by the editor

Our Truth, Mātou Pono: The Treaty of Waitangi and how it can protect against climate change
By: Te Ururoa Flavell – see image

OPINON: Whatungarongaro te tangata, toitū te whenua – as people disappear, the land remains.
What falls to us is to ensure the land that remains after we’ve gone is able to continue to support our people for generations to come.

As Māori, our very identity is inherently linked to this land and this environment. We use the environment to establish our identity through mihimihi [speeches at the beginning of a meeting] and whakapapa [genealogy], landmarks across the country carry the names of our tūpuna [ancestors], we bury our children’s whenua in this whenua, so they truly become part of this land.

Our well being is directly affected by the well being of our environment and as kaitiaki [owners] of the land, we will be at the forefront of moves to tackle one of the biggest challenges of our generation, climate change.

Our people have always been leaders in environmental protection and as with most things, we look to our tūpuna for guidance.

Our tūpuna imposed rāhui [fallow] during certain times to allow the whenua to rejuvenate or banned the taking of certain species during breeding seasons. What they were doing was developing tikanga [culture,customs] to protect the environment for future generations.

Tikanga are dynamic and will adapt to deal with climate change, as they did during Covid-19. These concepts of tikanga and caring for the environment using mātauranga [knowledge]Māori are implicit in everything we do at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa as we strive to ensure a positive future for our mokopuna [grandchildren].

Increasing our collective knowledge of tikanga and mātauranga Māori will benefit us all when the full impacts of climate change begin to be felt in areas such as agriculture, forestry and fisheries, industries which have high levels of Māori investment.

Equally, a significant proportion of Māori land is coastal land and this is another area where Māori will be disproportionately affected by climate change.

Already our whānau [famlies] in places such as Port Waikato, Matatā, Mōkau, Haumoana and a host of other localities know only too well the impacts of climate change and other issues on our whenua [land].

Urupā [burial place]are being washed away, once-productive beds of kaimoana [sea food] are becoming covered in silt or polluted from agricultural run-off, and many of our coastal marae [villages] and wāhi tapu [sacred places] are under threat.

Our kauri [a large Native tree] are dying, our manu are becoming more and more scarce, our oceans are warming and our rivers and lakes are increasingly too polluted to swim in, let alone drink from. Include more forest fires, depleted aquifers, record high temperatures, drought and flood and it’s plain that tough decisions need to be made.

As we again turn our focus to Waitangi [place where the Treaty was signed] Day and honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi in 2021, we should be mindful that significant sites such as the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, Kororāreka and Te Tii Marae are essentially at sea-level and will be in the frontline of the battle against climate change. Under Te Tiriti, the Crown has a duty to actively protect Māori lands, estates, forests, fisheries and other taonga [resources], and must also enable Māori to protect these taonga.

Local and regional councils also have obligations under Te Tiriti to develop a partnership approach to decision-making and to ensure Māori have genuine input into decisions in these areas.Unless this is done effectively and Māori are provided the support necessary to play a full role in the process, debates about Te Tiriti become moot.

Only by working in partnership can we focus on protecting our environment and securing the future for our children, so they can continue having these important discussions.

Te Ururoa Flavell is Te Taiururangi / Chief Executive of Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.
This has been taken from www.stuff.co.nz


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