Maori Cultural Revitalisation: Part 1

Aotearoa New Zealand is on a journey of Māori cultural revitalisation. It has reached a point where it is identifying opportunities and is initiating steps to fully recognise, embrace, and celebrate our country’s Māori heritage through a range of new and innovative initiatives, such as the formation of The Independent Māori Statutory Board, the proposed Auckland Unitary Plan, and the introduction of Te Aranga Māori Design Principles. We can see change being implemented in areas such as business, design, policy, within communities, cities, our culture and in ideas. It is clear that Māori contribution is not only required, but it is of primary importance to the ongoing cultural identity of our nation.

There are a number of key drivers that support this cultural shift. Some of these include iwi treaty settlements, government recognition of their obligations to the Treaty (and Māori as partners in this relationship), and a general growing awareness and renaissance of Māori culture as a formative part of who we are as New Zealanders. These are further emphasised with the growing recognition that Aotearoa’s identity is rooted in our unique and distinctive Māori culture and history.

Today, in a post-treaty settlement era, with iwi beginning to settle their grievances with The Crown, we are seeing an emergence of new organisations, legislation and built environments that reflect this momentous shift.

Within this context, we have seen the formation of influential bodies and organisations such as The Independent Māori Statutory Board (IMSB), which was established in 2010. The IMSB acts to ensure Auckland Council takes into account the view of Māori in Tāmaki Makaurau (the Auckland region) when making decisions and works to improve Māori wellbeing and development for the benefit of all New Zealanders. The mahi (work) that has been done by the IMSB since their inception is now starting to show within both policy and in actions. They are working with Auckland Council to help determine those critical decisions about where Auckland City is heading and what is best for its communities, and groups such as IMSB have given Māori new avenues to voice and get their ideas embedded in the planning process.

In addition, the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan is making steps in implementing a new legal effect for Maori.

The Proposed Auckland Unitary plan is one example of notifications that have new legal effect for Māori. The Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan (publically notified on October 1, 2013) legally requires the protection of sites that are of significance to mana whenua, and subsequently triggers the need for ‘cultural impact assessments’ to be undertaken across sites of particular interest to them before resource consent can be granted.

This was incorporated into the plan to help look after our cultural landscapes. The idea of the cultural impact assessments is important to ensure the engagement between interested parties and mana whenua; through discussion highlighting/flagging the issues of relevance that may be of cultural concern amidst the development process.

What further emphasises the rising influence of Māori in Aotearoa New Zealand is the growing Māori economy. This is being driven by post-Treaty of Waitangi settlement iwi such as Tainui and Ngāi Tahu, who are at the forefront of property development and growth of assets on behalf of their many hapū, whanau and marae. By example, Ngāi Tahu have grown their assets to a point where they manage around $1b and this is now allowing their iwi to have significant influence in the tribal and economic landscape of their surroundings. In turn, this provides greater assistance for their people, with iwi developments and strategies being explored for their ancestral whenua of the South Island and wider New Zealand.

These changing cultural contexts have both a positive, yet challenging impact for designers. There are increasingly more projects that involve Māori as both clients and fellow design partners. Working with Māori clients, stakeholders and designers is unique and enriching, with those who are involved being accountable not only to themselves but also the wider iwi, hapū and whanau. This is a powerful concept, yet one which means that turning up to a design meeting or iwi consultation hui with the idea of getting buy-in from one or two people simply won’t suffice. Sometimes this process can take years, although with the availability of new tools such as the Te Aranga Māori Design Principles, there is greater ability for both iwi and designers to work together more efficiently and meaningfully.

See our next Perspectives piece in a couple of weeks to learn more about the value of using Te Aranga Design Principles and how Māori are engaging in the design process.

Image Caption: Lance Su'a and Jamie Boynton at HeiTiki Exhibition, Jasmax.

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