Environmental guardianship in New Zealand : a cross cultural encounter : a thesis submitted for the partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master in Resource and Environmental Planning at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
In New Zealand, managing natural resources and planning for the environment entail a cross-cultural encounter between the Maori and the Modern Western worldviews. As different worldviews, each of these groups gives meaning, form and order to their respective experiences of reality in fundamentally different ways. The Maori notion of a spiritual ultimate reality and the rational apprehension of a material reality in the Modern Western worldview produce incompatible and irreducible views over the guardianship of natural resources and the environment. The Resource Management Act 1991 as the major piece of legislation for environmental planning in New Zealand is, however, predominantly monocultural, i.e. based on Modern Western worldview as an absolute and exclusive approach. Therefore, the relationship between Maori and the New Zealand Government in this regard, is characterized by both a deeply-rooted imbalance, and a difficulty to effectively communicate and understand each other. It is suggested that the first step towards an appropriate framework for a crosscultural relationship, is to overcome exclusivist and absolutist attitudes and claims that sustain the predominance of the Modern Western worldview over the Maori. Creating communication and understanding in symbolic levels may bridge the gap between Maori and the Government, and lay the foundations to redress the imbalance in their relationship. Examination of the Resource Management Act and the Treaty settlement process suggests this is feasible and successful approach for dealing with cross-cultural issues and to move towards pluralism in managing natural resources. This thesis concludes in recommendations for moving towards pluralism in New Zealand environmental management, and thereby a reduction in the imbalance between Maori and the government.