Environment report draws on mātauranga Māori

19 May 2022 1:53 PM | Anonymous

He taiao tōnui mō ngā reanga katoa – a flourishing environment for every generation.  

As the world picks up speed in the fight against climate change, the vital role and contribution ofIndigenous knowledge to help combat the crisis is increasingly being recognised. 

So much so that the recently released Environment Aotearoa 2022 Reporthas changed the way it reports its findings, drawing more on mātauranga Māori and exploring the link between the environment and our health and wellbeing. 

This unique approach, distinctive from other approaches around the world, interweaves different knowledge systems, presenting a richer and more relevant picture of the whole environment and the connections with people.  

More importantly the report builds towards a more sophisticated understanding of how to bring different bodies of knowledge together in future reporting.  

Environment Aotearoa 2022 uses Te Kāhui o Matariki (the Matariki star cluster) to organise the evidence in the report. 

PHANZ Māori Advisor Chis Webber welcomed the report and saidit enabled a Māori lens that values environmental elements through kinship relationships, ‘to be understood and treasured in hearts and minds rather than scientifically divided and conquered as resource for development’.  

‘Western science doesn't see Papatūānuku as an entity to be cared for like our mother, Māori science does,’ he explained. 

Mr Webber said Māori understandings of the world can deepen our collective action to recover life-sustaining mauri or life forces of our planet that are diminishing towards our own demise. 

‘It is encouraging to see indigenous knowledge recognised for the vital role it has to play in the fight against climate change. It is equally encouraging that words alone are backed up by cultural references and infographics with the sincerity and potential to open more engagement with kaupapa Māori in the drive for solutions.  

‘For an environmental status report that doesn't make recommendations, its loudest message is like the traditional pou in the ground inviting others to do likewise or ignore it at their own peril.  

‘PHA members and stakeholders are encouraged to develop reference points like this to magnify and hasten the work while we can. Mā whero, mā pango, ka oti te mahi - leadership and followship together will get the work done,’ added Mr Webber. 

Dr Dan Hikuroa, Senior Lecturer, Te Wānanga o Waipapa, Waipapa Taumata Rau (School of Māori Studies and Pacific Studies, University of Auckland) said people were viewed as part of the environment in the report.  

'That approach is consistent with the holistic Māori worldview,' said Dr Hikuroa, who was part of the mātauranga advisory board that helped craft the report. 

“The structure of the report around Te Kahui o Matariki, further reflects that worldview, and I believe is perhaps the first time an environmental report has genuinely woven together mātauranga and science, and the result is exceptional.” 

Secretary for the Environment Vicky Robertson said the report brought together a wide range of information to give us a broad picture of the health of the environment.  

‘Wellbeing is linked to a healthy, functioning environment,’ she said. 

Environmental indicator data underpinning the report comes from local and central government, crown and independent research institutes, industry associations, and in a small number of cases, international sources. 

Forest & Bird Chief Executive, Kevin Hague warned that althoughthe report showed that nature was helping us in many ways, it was clear that much more needed to be done to protect nature so it can continue to support and protect us.  

‘The previous reports [2018-2021] show that all environments – critical to New Zealanders’ wellbeing – are struggling with the impacts of human activity in our warming world. We rely on nature, yet it can only help us cope with the impacts of climate change and benefit our wellbeing if we take decisive action to restore and maintain its healthy state.”  

The report, produced every three years by the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ, draws on nearly 50 environmental indicators, including 11 updated specifically for the report.  

Some of the report’s key findings: 

Pressures of land-use change, and intensification, pollution, invasive species, and climate change are having detrimental impacts on the environment. New Zealand’s rare ecosystems and indigenous species are under threat with 94 per cent of reptiles threatened with extinction or at risk of becoming extinct, and nearly three-quarters of terrestrial birds threatened or at risk. 

The area of highly productive land that was unavailable for agriculture increased 54 per cent between 2002 and 2019. Our climate is warming, glaciers are melting, and sea-levels are rising. Air quality in Aotearoa is improving slowly at a majority of measurement sites, but in many places, pollution levels are above the new World Health Organisation (WHO) 2021 guidelines. 

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