Māori involvement in natural resource management in Aotearoa New Zealand : do statutory processes create benefits? : a thesis for the partial fulfilment of the requirements for Master of Philosophy in Science, Māori Resource & Environmental Management [at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand]
Maori have been under represented in natural resource management in Aotearoa New Zealand since the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi 1840 (Te Tiriti o Waitangi), and the establishment of the British Government in New Zealand in the 1850’s. The establishment of the Waitangi Tribunal in 1975 as an independent commission of inquiry has provided a valuable role and assisted Maori in achieving recourse to land heritage entitlement and natural resource management through making recommendations to proprietary rights. The Declaration of Independence and the Treaty of Waitangi are currently before the Waitangi Tribunal to determine their validity in New Zealand municipal law. Notwithstanding, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples supports Maori human rights but is yet to be incorporated into domestic law in Aotearoa New Zealand.
The reform of natural resource management in Aotearoa New Zealand in the 1990’s and in particular the Resource Management Act 1991, has partially paved a way forward in developing policy for Maori participation in the statutory application of natural resource management. However, the exemption of Maori proprietary rights to minerals, the conservation estate, marine and coastal area (foreshore and seabed) and compensation thereof remains a contentious debate for Maori. For this reason, Maori proprietary rights and statutory representation to land heritage entitlement and resource management continues to remain at the forefront of Maori contemporary grievances in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Treaty of Waitangi settlement legislation partially mitigates historical grievances created by the Crown and their representative agencies. However, the progress of compensating and providing redress to Maori for the alienation of natural resources has been slow-moving since the first national fisheries Treaty settlement in 1992. Eighteen years on Maori continue to seek a meaningful relationship with the Crown
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to achieve parity for the Maori people as the indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand.
Providing Maori with their own legislation and opportunities to participate at a local government level in the application of statutory management of natural resources is one means of achieving this. A greater respect of the Treaty partnership can provide a pathway forward and resolve the indifferences that have been long-standing since the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. Revamping the constitution of Aotearoa New Zealand and ensuring the same within a national Maori statutory body representing hapu and iwi is another means of balancing the inequities that have existed between Maori and the Crown over the last 170 years is also another means of achieving parity in Aotearoa New Zealand.