Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Bob Edlin: May the force be with you – and it will be when tourist taskforce’s vision (influenced by Te Ao Māori) is turned into policy and practice

At a NetHui in Auckland in 2015, Māori discussed and shared their ideas about whether tikanga Māori crossed over to the internet.

A Lincoln University philosopher said it does, according to one report of the proceedings.

Indigenous Digital Philosopher, Karaitiana Taiuru says, “We’re kanohi ki te kanohi, you know their mauri, you can touch something and get the mauri and the internet, it’s nothing, it’s te kore and it’s hard to try and quantify that.  But if you use the internet for the right purposes then it will have mauri.”

Here at Point of Order we trust we are putting the internet to the right purpose by drawing attention to the cultural and spiritual thrust of the recently released Tourism Future Taskforce Interim Report. It says:

This is a taskforce and report that from day one has been inspired by the Te Ao Māori perspective.

The wisdom and guidance received from Māori leadership has been incredibly significant to the thinking along the journey towards these [the taskforce’s] recommendations

The concept of “mauri” looms large in the taskforce’s vision for the tourist industry. 

For example:

The concept of Mauri has frequently come to the centre of our thinking and discussions because it aligns perfectly with a regenerative mindset. Applying this kaupapa (principle) of Mauri means that we must have a future visitor economy that is economically sustainable and:

‒ Is a part of our communities, not apart from them

‒ Gives richly back to our environment, which gives so much to us

‒ Connects and enhances our mana and our manaaki

‒ Enables our people to get excited, to grow and to thrive

‒ Clearly and tangibly enriches and enlivens our culture, our communities and our visitors

‒ Celebrates who we are and strengthens our place in the world

‒ Ensures accountability for delivering wellbeing, not just financial profit.

The taskforce believes we all have mauri.


We are all the future visitor economy of Aotearoa New Zealand. We are all hosts. We are all visitors. We are all part of the tapestry of cultures and identities that connect us to each other, to Aotearoa New Zealand and to the world. We are the team of six million storytellers – both those living in Aotearoa New Zealand and the diaspora.

We have Mauri – we carry a life force that connects all living things. Our Mauri is what binds us to the land. We are a visitor economy that contributes to the wellbeing of New Zealanders – socially, culturally, environmentally and financially



When we have a community-led visitor economy, we will see the essence of Aotearoa New Zealand come to life in ways that continually celebrate and enrich our unique culture. The Future State of Aotearoa Whakapapa summarises this transition and reflects the truth that our ultimate unique proposition globally is our people and our culture.

At the heart of that lies an intergenerational approach of Te Ao Māori. As the Taskforce grappled with what an authentic approach to delivering the four facets of wellbeing entailed, we found there is no better way to explain it than the Māori concept of Mauri – the life force and essence present in all things.

Our recommendation is for this concept to be embedded in all aspects of the visitor economy – to enhance the health, wellbeing and life force of our society, our culture, our environment and our economy.

The economics of the tourist industry – significantly – would be bound to mauri in the report’s vision.

A section on “appropriate destination management structures” calls for a review of all local and regional council tourism entities.

“This review should determine the best ways for these entities to:

    • Align activities with the visitor industry vision.
    • Enhance Mauri within and beyond their own territorial boundaries.
    • Create scale efficiencies and leverage assets beyond their own boundaries.
    • Drive decision-making from a local community level.
    • Align with destination management plans.
    • Monitor and understand the journeys  that customers take across the country, rather than just within their district.
    • Monitor and understand the different interest segments that travel to and through their district.

A section on funding similarly aims to promote mauri.

It calls for an independent study about how to develop a sustainable and equitable funding mechanism “based on a robust understanding of the costs and benefits of visitors”.

“ We need to properly understand the baseline position for how the costs and benefits of visitor activities are derived. We recommend undertaking an independent study to establish this baseline as the foundation for developing a sustainable and equitable funding mechanism.

“We also recommend that there should be a mandated hypothecation back to the visitor industry of any new sources of revenue and/or taxes that are derived directly from visitors.

The investment of those funds should be based on the following principles:

 ‒ Mechanisms are adaptable to adjust revenue to demand, both seasonally and cyclically over time.

‒ Differential rates for domestic and international visitors are appropriate.

‒ Revenue is generated as close as possible to the point of use.

‒ Local government funding is linked to tourism flows and use.

‒ Implementation follows the transition principles described within this report.

 ‒ Technology is funded and used to create effective and efficient collection methods; for example, digital payment capability at the point of use.

‒ Existing effective technology should be leveraged over creation of new technology.

‒ Funding should be used to directly incentivise the development of the Mauri of an area.

 ‒ Funding should align with destination management plans that take into account the four wellbeings approach. The Taskforce intends to address this issue further in the period between the release of our interim and final reports.

The link between government funding and mauri restoration was evidenced in an announcement by Kelvin Davis, when he was Minister of Tourism, of a $12 million investment from round three of the Tourism Infrastructure Fund to help 25 councils around New Zealand make the most out of the opportunities tourism can bring.

Among the handouts –

 As a part of the funding round, $1.1 million is being provided to Whangarei District Council for a project to restore the mauri of Matapouri.

 Point of Order wrote to the Minister at the time, asking how the success of the Matapouri investment will be measured.

  1. By what measure does the Minister know an area’s mauri needs restoring?
  2. Who will determine if and when the mauri has been restored at Matapouri?
  3. How long will it take to restore the mauri?

If the Minister replied, his answers got lost somewhere in the internet.

Mauri is a metaphysical concept, of course, but scientists must do their best to get to grips with it because a great deal of work – for example, on water quality – calls for mauri to be restored.   

A Maori scientist did reply when asked to explain the concept and its application to local government science programmes.  She explained:

Mauri is a Māori term loosely translated as ‘living force’. It could be aligned to the RMA 1991 policy wording ‘life-supporting capacity’.

At least this is how it is interpreted by most of our local (regional) governments who are responsible for implementing the RMA and the related National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPS-FM).

But like the variability among how local governments implement (or not) policy, there is also variability among how iwi and even hapū define mauri and measure it.

Because mauri has a non-physical element to it, many feel it cannot be measured using western science techniques (i.e. through assessment of water quality, biota, etc) and instead it requires mana whenua (those with authority of the land) to assess the state of mauri.

There have been Māori tools developed to assess mauri – such as the cultural health index ( that has been applied in case studies around the country. But really it is up to local iwi and hapū to decide how to assess mauri.

The Maori world view similarly is being incorporated in planning for the future of the primary sector, as can be seen in the Primary Sector Council’s Vision and Strategic Outline, released last year.   

Back in 2003, writing for The Independent Business Weekly, I noted that the Government’ was trying to reconcile its commitment to science and economic development with its commitments to Maori economic development and the enhancement of Maori culture.

Trouble is, the spiritual elements of Maori culture are animist, and animists believe everything shares an interconnected life force.

I referenced Ngai Tahu’s Mark Solomon.  Explaining why scientists must consult with his tribe about their research, he said Maori look at things “in a slightly different way”. They believe everything has a life force, a gift from the creator, and when life forces are mixed, the outcome is “not natural”.

I concluded that non-Maori could dismiss that belief as none of their business,

” …  just as the beliefs of others – Catholics, Seventh Day Adventists, Moslems, Hindus, flat-earthers, whatever – are none of their business, so long as they do not interfere with what they do. 

“But the Government increasingly is insinuating Maori beliefs into public policy and institutional practices.

“It justifies itself by brandishing the Treaty of Waitangi and sloganeering about the “treaty partnership”.  The dismaying consequences, to the contrary, are to nudge Maori and non-Maori further apart and fuel a growing resentment among the non-Maori majority against favours blatantly dispensed to win and hold Maori political support. 

“The Government also talks of ‘Maori advancement’ while it enthuses about the development of a ‘knowledge-based society’. But its undermining of ethnically neutral science and sponsorship of the rise of Maori spiritual influences threaten to hurtle us back to 1840, when the treaty was signed, and entomb us there.”

The insinuation of Maori beliefs into public policy and institutional practices has gone much further since then.

Bob Edlin is a veteran journalist and editor for the Point of Order blog HERE. 

1 comment:

Murray Patterson said...

Unfortunately Te AO Maori report is a load of gobbledegook.There is nothing in there as requires any Maori input as a separate entity. All of us realise that our country is a treasure, and we treat it as such. To say that Maori have a different perspective is nonsense. The only perspective they have which may differ is how much more money can they rake in from whitey.