The government, through the Department of Conservation (DOC), has set up an Options Development Group (ODG) to make recommendations on the co-governance and complete reform of the conservation system in New Zealand.
Their draft report leaves the reader in no uncertain terms as to who will hold the power over conservation land and water. The He Puapua report appears to be the guiding document under which the ODG recommendations have been made and it will come as no surprise that the ODG was facilitated by an author of He Puapua.
I’ll quote from some of the key recommendations and sub-recommendations but I’m warning the reader that before you delve in, a translation book between Te Reo and English is strongly recommended, as well as a stiff drink and a blood pressure checkup.
- “Undertake a fundamental reform of the conservation system as a whole” specifically “Review and replace the Conservation Act 1987 and all associated schedule 1 Acts …..to honour Te Tiriti/the Treaty and provide for the meaningful exercise of rangatiratanga and kaitiakitanga by Tangata Whenua, to ensure that Papatūānuku thrives”
- “Reframe the purpose of conservation to ensure it is fit-for-purpose for Aotearoa” specifically “Embed a new understanding of conservation that is specific to Aotearoa New Zealand that reflects both Tangata Whenua and Tangata Tiriti perspectives and supports thriving indigenous biodiversity”
- “Centre tikanga and mātauranga within the conservation system” specifically “Ensure that the terms and key principles under conservation legislation, policies and strategies reflect Te Ao Māori” and “Ensure the relationship between Tangata Whenua and conservation lands, waters, wāhi tapu, resources, species and other taonga (including tikanga and mātauranga relating to that relationship) is determined by Tangata Whenua”
- “Recast the legal status of conservation land and waters, resources, and indigenous species” specifically “Reform the ownership model of public conservation lands and waters to reflect the enduring relationships Tangata Whenua have with these places and the resources/taonga that reside within them” and “Revoke Crown ownership of indigenous species” and “Resolve Tangata Whenua rights and interests in the freshwater and marine domains” and “Ensure Tangata Whenua access to and use of all species and resources managed within the conservation system….”
- “Reform conservation governance and management to reflect Tiriti/Treaty partnership at all levels” specifically “Review and reform all conservation governance entities….. to reflect Tiriti/Treaty partnership” and “Adopt appropriate models for mana to mana relationships, planning, and decision-making….” and “Honour and implement existing Tiriti/Treaty settlement commitments and arrangements, noting these do not limit the full expression of te Tiriti/the Treaty partnership”
- “Enable devolution of powers including decision making functions to meaningfully recognise the role of tino rangatiratanga” specifically “Provide for the delegation, transfer, and devolution of functions and powers within the conservation system to Tangata Whenua”
Once again, this comes down to what is fair and democratic. We have to ask ourselves if, arriving a few hundred years before everyone else and practising a particular belief system gives one race, or more accurately part-race, special rights of ownership over our environment. Apart from the tiny group of politicians, activists and academics who would answer yes, I believe that most other New Zealanders would find this report shocking and insulting. It suggests that 85% of the population are not deserving of owning land or capable of caring for land, which resides under the Crown for the benefit of ALL citizens.
The government is clearly going to make the most of their outright majority over the next couple of years by enacting He Puapua while denying that they intend to do so. We need to call them out on this or soon you’ll have to apply to your local marae for permission, and probably pay a fee, to go for a walk in the bush!
Derek Mackie is a geologist with a keen interest in current affairs.