The tangata whenua world view encapsulates multi-layered concepts in relation to environmental knowledge. At the heart of the tangata whenua/mana whenua world view is a belief that everything and everyone is interconnected and, therefore, should be valued and cared for30. To be consistent with this view, waste management and minimisation cannot be regarded in isolation from environmental management31. This is an essential feature of Te Ao Māori. This section summarises those tangata whenua ethics, values and principles that inform waste management and minimisation32.
2.5.2 Tangata whenua high level ethics and values
Tangata whenua ethics and values stem from a belief system about the origin of the universe in which humans and nature are not separate, but related parts of a unified whole. Descended from the union of Ranginui (the sky father) and Papatuanuku (the earth mother) and their offspring, humans share a common whakapapa (genealogy) with other animals, plants and geographic locations. According to whakapapa, the natural world is our kaitiaki (guardian) who nurtures and cares for us. The concept of reciprocity and reverence means we in turn are also kaitiaki with a responsibility to care for te ao turoa (environment). As a result there are functional relationships between tangata whenua and particular ecosystems that are unique to iwi, hapu and wha-nau.The primary responsibility for mana o te whenua (status of the land) in this context resides with ahikaa or mana whenua from specific geographical areas.
As the people are intrinsically linked with the natural world, the mana of the iwi, hapu, or whānau is directly related to the wellbeing of the natural resources within their rohe, or region33.
For Mana Whenua in the Auckland region, Mana Motuhake (absolute sovereignty) is the term that best describes sustainability in te ao turoa as it focuses on the value of:
- manaaki tangata: care and regard for the people
- manaaki whenua: care and regard for the land
- manaaki atua: care and regard for taonga Ma-ori (natural resources) bestowed upon the whenuaby Io (creator).
2.5.3 Waste management and minimisation
There is no waste in nature and there was very little waste in the early society of tangata whenua. In fact, the Māori language does not have a word that aligns directly to the meaning of ‘waste.’ The waste produced by tangata whenua was of a high organic content and was disposed of onto or into the land, where it would slowly decay and not come into contact with water sources. Waste was viewed as a resource which would return to Papatuanuku (earth mother) as compost. Everything was biodegradable, or could be reused, recycled or viewed as a recoverable resource.
The traditional handling of waste was organised so that waste associated with specific activities was handled through a complex set of rules34. These practices required different disposal methods for different types of waste, for example human waste was not mixed with food waste. A closed loop approach ensured that material was separated appropriately for composting or further use. Body waste was kept separate from solid waste and disposed of back into the ground at a great distance from water.
Advances in technology mean that waste produced by all sectors of society has become more difficult to deal with, due to:
- increased volume brought on by an increased population and behavioural changes
- an increase in non-organic and potentially hazardous components to the waste stream35.
Modern solid waste management and minimisation can incorporate a tangata whenua world view. There are also specific realities which need to be considered particular to tangata whenua when developing waste management and minimisation plans. For example, it is well documented that tangata whenua have strongly voiced the need to keep waste (and the leachate from waste) out of surface, ground and coastal waters and to ensure that refuse disposal facilities are not sited on waahi tapu (areas of cultural or historical significance).
Tangata whenua ethics and values can provide the framework to explore strategies and techniques to deal with solid waste in the Auckland region, as modern concepts of valuing natural resources, reusing, recycling materials, and care with disposal of residual waste have many synergies with the tangata whenua world view.