The good fight : power and the indigenous struggle for the Manawatū river : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Resource and Environmental Planning at Massey University, Manawatū, New Zealand
Power is the central theme of this research. This thesis examines how power
structures iwi contributions to freshwater planning and decision-making. Power
has received little attention in literature on Māori and natural resource planning,
even though it reproduces and potentially transforms existing inequalities among
Māori, other actors and planning institutions. In failing to analyse power, scholars
have left a significant gap in the literature.
In New Zealand, the deleterious effects of agricultural expansion on water have
significant implications for iwi, as water is linked to tribal identity and mana. Both
past and current generations have struggled to protect water. Contemporary
strategies to restore degraded water bodies and reclaim mana, as control and
authority, over water include co-management arrangements.
Simultaneously, Government has taken an enthusiastic, uncritical stance to
promoting collaboration as an approach to freshwater planning, including iwi as
one among multiple actors. In this pro-collaboration climate, however, power has
been ignored. So, this research asks: How does power structure iwi contributions to
freshwater planning and decision-making?
To answer this question, a case study was undertaken of the Manawatū River, a
highly degraded water body in the lower North Island of New Zealand. Two main
methods were used to collect data: semi-structured interviews with 13 key
informants and an analysis of 214 documents, including 180 newspaper articles.
To interpret the data, the theoretical framework used Pierre Bourdieu’s concepts of
field, capital and habitus.
The research found that power structures all contributions to freshwater decisionmaking
into a hierarchy, with iwi contributions typically marginalised. The
hierarchy is a colonial legacy which continues to be reproduced in multiple ways.
So, while collaboration, as advocated by the Crown, has some benefits for iwi, it will
not help re-structure this hierarchy to enable iwi to regain control over water.
Other strategies, such as Treaty of Waitangi settlements, are liable to be more
This finding implies that iwi must assess whether co-management or collaboration
strategies will enable them to reshape power imbalance. Gaining power is critical
to transform inequality, reclaim authority and restore the mauri of water for future