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Cultural conflicts in resource management : the case of Ngati Kahungunu and Ahuriri Estuary

Palmers, Michael H.
Fields of Research
The accommodation of cultural values appears to be implicit in the Resource Management Act 1991. However, cultural values have been identified as a cause of tension in making decisions about taonga/natural resource use. To understand how culture affects resource management I asked the question: "Can there be an accommodation of different cultural values in the management of taongo/natural resources'?" The case of Ngāti Kahungunu and Te Whanganui-a-Orotu/Ahuriri Estuary, Napier (subject to a Waitangi Tribunal claim), provides an example or cultural conflict over both the management and ownership of the resources within Ahuriri Estuary. Through the use of qualitative research methods the following influences on resource management were identified: cultural paradigms; resource-use rights; and what constituted the 'common good'. First, working from a premise that resource management is influenced by cultural beliefs, tikanga Māori and Western resource management start from different philosophical bases. The 'secular Western paradigm' (henceforth SWP), as a point on the sacred/secular continuum, influences territorial authorities to consider Māori values as inappropriate for managing natural resources. Second, resource-use rights are based on a cultural construction or property rights. The SWP tends to favour private and Crown property rights over a community-based approach to the management of common resources. Third, the SWP also holds the doctrine of 'common good' to be have priority over Māori values. Tino rangātiratanga is important to Ngāti Kahungunu and the issue of resource ownership has yet to be resolved because the second article of the Treaty has been ignored. The conclusion is reached that Ngāti Kahungunu participation, as Treaty partners, in taongo/natural resource management may increase but within the constraints of a SWP. One way forward is for Ngāti Kahungunu and Crown to have 'joint management' of taonga/natural resources. Joint management would give both Treaty partners equal regulatory control. Such an arrangement would clarify usufruct rights to common resources and would incorporate Māori cultural values into resource management.