In 1840, New Zealand’s founding document and first resource management legislation was formed, the Treaty of Waitangi (the Treaty). In 1975, the Treaty was given statutory status and has since been the main driver of Māori values recognition in national policy. Expectations of Māori iwi through this process have centred on establishing the legitimacy of iwi, creating policy equity and the ownership of resources and management rights. A considerable amount of research contributing towards Treaty Claims is funded through the Crown Forestry Rental Trust (CFRT), with one of the primary mechanisms in establishing claimant group rights to natural resources being the identification of Sites of Significance (SOS). CFRT define SOS as:

  …places within the rohe which are particularly important to the claimant group. They may include pā sites [historical fortified villages], awa [rivers, streams], maunga [mountains or significant outcrops of land], wāhi tapu [sacred place, sacred site], or other places of particular cultural or spiritual significance… Sometimes sites will not be a mere single point on the landscape, but will include a number of interrelated areas covering a wider area. Kāinga [homes – contemporary and ancestral], pa sites, urupā [burial grounds], mahinga kai [foodgathering place], trails, cultivations and natural resource areas may form a complex of occupation and use, covering a significant area.1

SOS mapping therefore records patterns of long-term occupation and intimate knowledge of place; an understanding which could be termed ‘eco-philosophical.’ Hīkoi – the process of walking the land with tangata whenua (people of the land) – can be walks that follow ancestral pathways, or visits to SOS for the purposes of sharing cultural knowledge. More than this, however, experiencing SOS through hīkoi produces something tangible and connective, a personal, intimate view of people being no more or less than elements of the environment. For tangata whenua the land, waterways, ocean and air are understood as living entities with which there is a respectful and reciprocal relationship established. This relational approach progresses environmental management towards considering ways to improve mutual health, rather than only the mitigation of negative effects – or – the distinct separation of an SOS for the purposes of preservation.

Defined by Desna Whaanga-Schollum.
Iwi affiliations: Rongomaiwahine, Kahungunu, Pahauwera. Image: Desna Whaanga-Schollum, Whakaki-nui-a-Rua, Waiatai Valley, New Zealand, 2016.

1. Crown Forestry Rental Trust, 2007.