Para Kore : an alternative voice for a zero waste world : a research project presented to Massey University in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of International Development, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Institute of Development Studies, Massey University, Manawatu, New Zealand
Issues of solid waste pollution are viewed as a serious threat to the global Sustainable Development Goals. Waste minimisation in New Zealand centres around a loose government
policy framework underpinned by a neoliberal belief in market-driven solutions from the business sector. The traditional ‘waste hierarchy’ model (Reduce-Reuse-Recycle-Recover) remains at the core of legislation, while the more recently developed ‘Circular Economy’ model is increasingly viewed by both state and business sector as offering new hope. However, strategies for waste minimisation in New Zealand are still failing to reduce waste, as exemplified by the annual growth in waste-to-landfill rates.
Given the failures mentioned above, this research looked to investigate the merits of an alternative indigenous approach to waste minimisation based upon a different epistemology. Framed by a hope-filled post-development outlook, an in-depth critique of current literature regarding mainstream waste minimisation strategies was undertaken alongside a qualitative case study with Para Kore Marae Inc., a Māori not-for-profit organisation active in 12 regions of New Zealand.
The study revealed there are contradictions within mainstream waste minimisation strategies. Resolution of waste issues is constrained by political adherence to neoliberal economic theory
which promotes continuous growth in production and consumption. A dominant metanarrative
around waste has developed allowing the collective impact of factors incompatible with waste
eradication to remain unacknowledged and unaddressed by state actors.
The Para Kore model contrasts significantly with technocentric state-led approaches. Para Kore
Marae Inc. views solid waste issues through the spiritual lens of kaitiakitanga, the relationship
and consequent responsibility of each person to the natural world. For participants adopting a Para Kore approach, intrinsic motivation developed to align waste reduction behaviours with personal values and cultural principles. In addition to reducing waste-to-landfill, the Para Kore approach resulted in holistic improvements to individual and community wellbeing. Cost and
time constraints to waste reduction were not found to be an issue. The most significant challenge to the model was ‘burnout’ experienced by the ‘champion’ facilitators. The Para Kore approach is identified as reflecting the emergent post-neoliberal political framework, the ‘Politics of Belonging’. It is concluded that Para Kore’s approach has significant value not only in engendering waste reduction behaviours within organisations and households but also in reinvigorating individual and community wellbeing.