About Māori land in New Zealand
Why whenua matters
Our whenua is our tūrangawaewae, our place to stand. It connects us to our whānau, our ancestors and to our future generations.
Whatungarongaro te tangata toitū te whenua.
As man disappears from sight, the land remains.
In recent times, for many of us, the connection to our whenua has been damaged, or lost. Most of us don't live on our whenua anymore — we might not even know where it is.
It can take a lot of mahi to connect to our whenua and to bring it back to what it once was. But the mahi is worth it, because the whenua can enrich our lives.
Simon Gomez: The connection to the land to me is quite spiritual. If I fly over, about halfway across the straights and I feel like I'm home. If I'm coming on the ferry, the moment we come around that point I'm home.
Dick Ryan: This land gets hold of you and it's just there the whole time, the feeling is there. It leaves you sometimes when you go away from the island but when you come back it returns again so it's very close to our heart.
Ulva Goodwille: There was a lot of trading between Stewart Island, Rakiura, and Australia. This is the 1800's we are talking about. They traded the whale oil, seal oil, seal skins and the logs so these settlers moved in with the Māori wāhine on the neck, you see. So, it was quite a big community then and generations later they are they are still living on the island.
Simon Gomez: And, what we're doing now is trying to restore the land to what it always was rather than what it became after European settlement arrived on the island. We have weed problems, we have issues that we have to try and clean up. We are the largest owner of land on the island after the government and we see it as a responsibility to be wayfinders, to show people how we should look after the land.
Richard Manning: So, the trust over a number of years have spent considerable capital in endeavoring to regenerate and restore the bush. That is an ongoing challenge but we know from our analysis work over a good deal of time that the bush is progressively improving.
The trust have a big picture vision and we recognize that Kiwi are an iconic product or an iconic taonga to New Zealand and to our people. So, we were able to acquire a very long and is well established business and we were very privileged to do that in partnership with a well-respected, highly capable operator in Real Journeys.
So, we foresee that there is an opportunity to extend the business model to other areas of our whenua. We know we've got a lot of Kiwi on the neck but we don't know their behavioural patterns. So, we've employed advisors or researchers to actually monitor a lot of that that process will take time but gradually we've been doing a lot of research around extension of walking tracks and research of other product opportunities. But in saying that, we recognize that we have to find a balance in the business models where there is both the importance of respecting the ownership of the land, respecting the beneficiary's interest and, we can make it economically viable.
Simon Gomez: Every generation has a job to do to preserve and sustain for the next generation. It's our land, it's our taonga, it's our responsibility.
It connects us
Building a connection to our whenua lets us be a part of something bigger than ourselves. Acting as a kaitiaki for the whenua can help us bring our whānau closer together, both physically and spiritually. It reminds us of the importance of whakapapa, and the connections between our tīpuna and future generations.
It’s not something that happens overnight. Connecting to our whenua takes passion and perseverance — it’s one step at a time. But, with each step we take, our mahi will inspire others in the whānau to start their journey back to the whenua too. When we have our whenua, we know our people and our place.
It improves our wellbeing
Our whenua is intrinsically linked to our wellbeing. When the whenua thrives, the whānau thrives.
The relationship between whenua and whānau is part of our traditional way of living a sustainable and balanced life, where the health and wellbeing of the collective was the focus of the community.
It strengthens our identity
Having a place to stand or tūrangawaewae is a fundamental part of our identity as Māori. It is often related to the lands we trace our whakapapa back to.
Being able to walk on the land that your ancestors walked on helps strengthen the connection to who you are — it connects you to your whakapapa and helps you understand who you are and how you came to be.
It can nourish us
Whenua is the place we are nourished — physically by the food that grows and lives there, emotionally by the aroha of the whānau that connect there, and spiritually by the mauri, the life-force.
When the whenua is thriving, there can also be potential for financial support too. Not all whenua has money-making potential but some does, especially when it has good governance and people with passion.
It is our responsibility
There is so little whenua Māori in Aotearoa now, it is our responsibility to protect what is left. It was here before us, it will be here long after us, and it gives us so much.