Western and Mäori Values for Sustainable Development


David Rei Miller, Ngäti Tüwharetoa, Ngäti Kahungunu, MWH New Zealand Ltd


Forestry, fishery and agriculture account for $1 billion of the $1.9 billion Māori economy annually, but these industries are under threat from environmental destruction and unsustainable resource use. Māori leaders of today and tomorrow must negotiate the interface between Te Ao Māori and Western science to ensure long-term sustainability of the environment, society, economy and cultural values. 

This paper examines the Māori and Western scientific worldviews, describing the fundamental differences and emerging similarities found at the interface. The emerging mindset in Western sustainability science has notions compatible with and complementary to mātauranga Māori. The current legislative framework requires and enables partnerships between Tangata Whenua and local government in resource management.  

Case studies are given that strive to meet the objectives of both parties. In general, these have proved successful, but there are areas where improvement is needed. It is concluded that Māori are well-placed to become world leaders in sustainability.  


As the 20th century drew to a close, we began writing a new chapter in the history of Aotearoa. In 2004, Mäori have greater control over resource management and decision making than at any time in our colonial past. Treaty settlements, iwi ventures and partnerships with government have been used to bring the Mäori economy into the marketplace of the modern world, the global economy. However, the global economy and humanity in general are now facing enormous challenges due to resource depletion and environmental degradation. Forestry, fishery and agriculture  account for $1 billion of the $1.9 billion Mäori economy annually (NZIER, 2003). These industries are greatly at risk from threats such as global climate change, seasonal algal blooms, acidification of the atmosphere and unsustainable resource use.  

The Māori leaders of tomorrow must be aware of their unique relationship with the environment, and of ways in which the long-term sustainability of the environment, society, the economy and cultural values can be ensured. It is not enough to simply achieve short-term goals of economic progress. It is necessary for Māori leaders to negotiate the interface between Te Ao Māori and Te Ao Whānui, so that Māori can be citizens of the world while still retaining cultural identity. The four signposts to guide this negotiation are the exercise of control, the transmission of worldviews, participation in decision-making and the delivery of multiple benefits (Durie, 2001). 

The objective of this paper is to examine the worldviews of Māori and Western science with regard to sustainability (the ability to meet the needs of the present generation while ensuring that the needs of future generations may be met). The interface between the two worldviews is examined, with the hypothesis that there is an area of common ground enabling Western and Māori principles of sustainability to be used for mutual gain. Government legislation providing a framework for partnerships between Tangata Whenua and local government to manage resources is described. Several case studies are examined which strive to meet the objectives of both parties to ensure the sustainability of the environment, society, economy and cultural values. 

Mātauranga Mäori and Kaitiakitanga 

The Māori Worldview 

Long ago, Tane Mahuta ascended the poutama into heaven and brought back three baskets, containing knowledge of the worlds Tua-Uri, Te Aro-Nui and Tua-Atea. 

Tua-Uri is the world of dark that existed before the natural world we now perceive. This world lasted for 27 nights, each of which spanned an aeon of time. Tua-Uri cannot be perceived by direct means. It is where cosmic processes originated that operate as complex, rhythmic energy patterns upholding, sustaining and replenishing the life energy of the natural world. Tua-Uri is the place where all things are gestated, evolved and refined before becoming manifest in Te Aro-Nui, the natural world of sense perception. Tua-Uri and Te Aro-Nui are part of the cosmic process, but not ultimate reality. 

Tua-Atea is the third world, which is infinite and eternal, existing beyond space and time. This is the abode of Io, the creator, and is the transcendent, eternal world of the spirit. It was before Tua-Uri, and is the ultimate reality which Te Aro-Nui is tending towards.  

Throughout the genealogy of the cosmic process, mauri, hihiri, mauri-ora and hau-ora occur at different stages. Mauri occurs early on in the genealogy of the cosmic process. It is the force that penetrates and binds all things. As the various elements of the universe diversify, mauri acts to keep them all in unison. Hihiri is pure energy, manifested as radiation or light. It is a refined form of mauri and is an aura which radiates from matter, especially living things. Mauri-ora is the life principle, further refined beyond hihiri. Mauri-ora is the binding force that makes life possible. Hau-ora is the breath of the spirit, infused into the cosmic process to give birth to animate beings. The genealogy from hau-ora through to Ranginui and Papatuanuku is shown in Figure 1 : 

Figure 1: Early Genealogy of the Universe (Marsden and Henare, 1992) 



























































From the union of Ranginui and Papatuanuku came the atua, including Tane Mahuta guardian of the forest, Tangaroa of the ocean, Haumietiketike who presided over wild foods and Rongomatane whose domain was cultivated crops. The resources under the protection of each atua emanate from them, and have spiritual and physical aspects. 

Hineahuone, the first human, was created by Tane breathing life into the earth. Humans are both descended from and created by the atua, and hold both divine and mortal principles. 

Māori Mythology  

The worldview of the Māori is expressed most frequently through the use of myths or legends. Māori myths and legends form the central system on which a holistic view of the universe is based. 

Myths and legends were neither fables embodying primitive faith in the supernatural, nor marvellous fireside stories of ancient times. They were deliberate constructs employed by the ancient seers and sages to encapsulate and condense into easily assimilated forms their view of the world of ultimate reality and the relationship between the creator, the universe and man. 

(Marsden and Henare, 1992) 

Atua provided a rational and orderly way of living and perceiving the environment. For Māori the environment exists on several different levels at once. A mountain can be the personification of a particular atua, as well as being rock, a resource to be utilised, and having qualities such as beautiful or cold. This worldview has a number of connotations for resource gathering and management. The appropriate karakia must be spoken when gathering resources, for example when felling a tree to ensure the blessing of Tane Mahuta. Desecration of resources is destruction in a physical sense, but also an insult to the spiritual powers who created them (Kawharu, 1998). 

The physical world was these atua. Tane was a tree, also Tane was a person, likewise, water was Tangaroa. They were not silly, they knew water was wet and all that, but they also knew it as Tangaroa. 

(O’Regan, 1984) 

Māori perceptions of reality (in other words, what was regarded as actual, probable, possible or impossible), were deliberately placed in symbolic mythology for several reasons. Firstly, this enabled them to easily imprint upon the mind, allowing finer details to be added in progressive order, until the entire body of knowledge was learned. At the same time, however, due to the tapu nature of knowledge it was desirable to use symbols to hide inner meanings and prevent misuse or abuse of the information within. Through mythology and genealogy Tangata Whenua are reminded that they are a product of the environment, rather than being in a superior position to it. The two myths of Rata and Te Ika a Maui demonstrate Māori beliefs regarding the use of resources. 

After a series of events, it came about that Rata needed to fashion a waka to recover the relics of his father from an enemy. He felled a totara tree for the purpose, and after his labour left it lying in the forest until the next day. On his return, he found that the log was no longer there. Looking around he recognised the tree, growing tall exactly as he had found it. There were not even any wood chips remaining on the ground. He felled the tree again, this time trimming it as well, and stripping off the bark before returning home. The next day, the totara was back in place as though it had never been touched, and not a chip nor scrap of bark was out of place. Rata once again chopped down the totara, and this time he trimmed it, shaped it and began to scoop out the inside of a waka from the trunk.  

Rata left the half-formed waka and returned home. But later that night, he crept back into the forest. As he approached the spot where the tree lay, he could hear singing, and see light shining through the trees. Creeping nearer, he could see the hakuturi of Tane, fairy folk, birds and insects working away to restore the totara. Birds were carrying leaves and twigs in their beaks. Thousands of insects swarmed over the log, replacing chips and filling up the hollow. Angrily, he leapt from the trees to confront the hakuturi. They fled, the singing ceased and the lights went out. Rata was standing in the forest alone. He then repented and spoke of his sorrow in cutting down the tree, saying that he would never cut down a tree again. Then he heard a voice, which said “You may, but you must ask Tane Mahuta, guardian of the forest and birds for permission. He created all these trees, and you must ask him when you wish to use them.” 

Maui decided he wanted to go fishing with his brothers so he hid in their waka. When the brothers detected his presence, they decided to take him back. Maui refused though, and told his brothers that they would have to find land, as Maui had used his powers of karakia to push the waka far out to sea. The brothers became afraid and Maui told them to go to his fishing grounds. Soon the brothers were pulling in plenty of fish. Suddenly the hook Maui was using, which was a jawbone he obtained from his grandmother, caught onto the tekoteko of a wharenui belonging to Tonganui, grandson of Tangaroa. Soon a great fish appeared, which eventually became known as Te Ika a Maui.  

Maui left his brothers to look after the fish before dividing it up, while he went to see a tohunga to free them from the tapu of catching such a large fish. He also knew that Tangaroa was angry so he wanted to make peace with him. When he returned his brothers had already begun to cut the fish up. It thrashed and writhed, and then when rigor mortis set in, the cuts became mountains, rivers and valleys, which is why the lie of the land in Te Ika a Maui is so bad today. 

These myths show that before resources are taken, karakia must be addressed to the proper atua. This ensures that nature is treated with due care and respect. If karakia are not performed correctly, the anger of the atua may be aroused, with dire consequences. Through their associations with the atua, these myths were sanctified and became a foundation on which kaupapa (first principles) were established. From these guiding principles, tīkanga (custom or practices) could be derived and validated (Walker, 1978). 

Tangata Whenua and the Environment 

In Te Ao Māori, resources belong to the earth, the embodiment of which is Papatuanuku. Humankind, just like birds, fish and other beings has only user rights with respect to these resources, not ownership (Marsden and Henare, 1992). The relationship between Tangata Whenua and the environment is a symbiotic one of equality and mutual benefit ( Figure 2 ). 

Papatuanuku is seen as a living organism, sustained by species that facilitate the processes of ingestion, digestion and excretion. Pou whenua, the prestige of the land, relies on marae and human activity for its visible expression (Douglas, 1984), and the environment also provides sustenance. In return, mankind as the consciousness of Papatuanuku has a duty to sustain and enhance her life support systems.  

Figure 2: Tangata Whenua Relationship with Land 

 Tangata Whenua are descended from the land, and the word whenua also refers to the placenta. At birth, this is traditionally buried in the land of the hapu, strengthening relationships with the land and with whānau. Land, water, air, flora and fauna are ngā taonga i tuku iho, treasures handed down. Eventually these will be passed on to ngā whakatīpuranga, one’s descendants. The land gives identity and also turangawaewae, a place to stand. Without a relationship with the land, Māori are cut adrift and have no place to stand. Douglas (1984) emphasises that if the Māori relationship with land is not recognised, they are obliterated as a people. 

Each hapu will whakapapa back to a particular area of land, a mountain, and a body of water from which they have sprung. The identification of a hapu with their surrounding area is so strong that in cases where hapu have moved location for some reason, they have changed their name accordingly. Within the area of each particular hapu, resources are managed and accessed collectively, without individual ownership. Ownership would imply that humans are in a superior position to the environment, which would be contrary to the Māori worldview. 

Mauri is a concept of prime importance in Māori resource management (Morgan, 2004a). Mauri is the binding force between spiritual and physical; when mauri is extinguished, death results. Mauri is the life force, passed down in the genealogy through the atua to provide life. It is also strongly present in water; the mauri of a water body or other ecosystem is a measure of its life-giving ability (or its spiritual and physical health). Where mauri is strong, flora and fauna will flourish. Where it is weak, there will be sickness and decay.  

Water is thus highly valued for its spiritual qualities as well as for drinking, transport, irrigation and as a source of kai. Bodies of water that hapu include in whakapapa have mana as ancestors. Their physical and spiritual qualities are key elements in the mana and identity of iwi, hapu and whānau. Water is defined in terms of its spiritual or physical state as shown in Table 1 : 

Table 1: Categories of Water (Douglas, 1984) 


Purest form of water, with potential to give and sustain life and to counteract evil.


Water that has come into unprotected contact with humans, and so is ordinary and no longer sacred. Has mauri.


Water that has been debased or corrupted. Its mauri has been altered so that the supernatural forces are non-selective and can cause harm.


Slow moving. typical of swamps, providing a range of resources such as rongoa for medicinal purposes, dyes for weaving, eels and birds.


Water which has lost its mauri. It is dead, damaged or polluted, with no regenerative power. It can cause ill-fortune and can contaminate the mauri of other living or spiritual things.


The sea, surf or tide. Also used to distinguish seawater from fresh water.


When an incident has occurred in association with water, for example a drowning, an area of that waterway is deemed tapu and no resources can be gathered or activities take place there until the tapu is lifted.


Mixing water of different types is a serious concern for Māori. The mauri of a water body can be destroyed by an inappropriate discharge, with serious consequences for the ecosystem concerned. Hapu reliant on the spiritual and physical well-being of the water body will also be affected. Mauri is defined on the basis of catchments (as are tribal boundaries). The diversion or combining of waters from different sources or catchments is considered inappropriate. 


Kawharu (1998) examined the set of principles relating to kaitiakitanga, and the evolution of the term, in detail. This source is heavily drawn on in the current section. 

The word kaitiakitanga is a recent development, although the underlying principles have most likely been practiced for hundreds of years. It developed recently as Māori increasingly sought to demonstrate their political and social status, particularly in relation to resource management. The word comes from “tiaki” meaning to care for, guard or protect, and the generic term “kai” which leads to “kaitiaki” to indicate a guardian, caretaker, conservator or trustee. Some iwi instead use the term “te hunga tiaki” to avoid juxtaposing “kai” with “tiaki”, which could cause offence since the word “kai” is used of food.  

Kaitiakitanga was introduced to encapsulate a wide range of ideas, relationships, rights and responsibilities. The use of a single word allowed the Crown to translate this concept into something they could understand. It has variously been translated to mean “guardianship” or “stewardship”. Stewardship is not a correct translation, since the implication is that a steward looks after someone else’s property. Guardianship does fairly well to translate one part of the concept of kaitiakitanga, that of ensuring the sustainability (long-term survival) of resources.

Māori concepts of kaitiakitanga, however, involve a much broader range of principles and activities than the current Pākehā understanding of the term. Included in kaitiakitanga are concepts concerning authority and use of resources (rangatiratanga, mana whenua), spiritual beliefs ascertaining to sacredness, prohibition, energy and life-force (tapu, rahui, hihiri and mauri) and social protocols associated with respect, reciprocity and obligation (manaaki, tuku and utu). 

The purpose of kaitiakitanga is to ensure sustainability (of the whānau, hapu or iwi) in physical, spiritual, economic and political terms. It is the responsibility of managing resources to ensure survival and political stability in terms of retaining authority over an area. As well as a practical process, kaitiakitanga is an exercise of spiritual authority or mana. Through genealogy, kaitiakitanga becomes a responsibility delegated by the atua. The management of resources is most often carried out at the hapu level. Kaitiaki are usually hapu or whānau, or significant individuals within these groups such as rangatira, tohunga and kaumatua. Kaitiaki in the spiritual sense could also be taniwha or ancestral guardians. 

The key feature of kaitiakitanga is reciprocity. The reciprocal agreement between kaitiaki and resource means that the resource must sustain the kaitiaki (physically, spiritually and politically), who in return must ensure the long-term survival of the resource. As well as being conserved, resources were also there to be used. A hapu has mana whenua or mana moana (rights of resource use) over a particular area, from which it gains prestige and respect. But the resources also have mana associated with the ability of the land to produce the bounties of nature. Reciprocity is a means of keeping balance, and also a way of insulating the kaitiaki against political, economic or spiritual harm. 

Kaitiakitanga, as well as being a resource management framework and an environmental ethic, is also associated with the social structure. It is overall a socio-environmental ethic which delineates relationships humans have with the environment, the atua, and each other. The most important social dimension of kaitiakitanga is manaakitanga, providing for guests. This too is a reciprocal arrangement. The host group provides hospitality predominantly in the forms of shelter, protection and kai. In return, the visitors are acknowledging the host as Tangata Whenua, with mana whenua and mana moana in that area. The more the host gives, the greater their mana. Various districts and marae take pride in the specialty foods of their area, particularly in regard to kai moana. In customary times, it was the exercise of the rights and responsibilities of kaitiakitanga that proved an association with and ties to an area or resource, distinguishing a group as Tangata Whenua. Kaitiakitanga was a right delegated by the atua, but these rights had to be asserted. Principally this was done through occupation, hosting guests, naming features, marae, taonga, burial grounds and oratory. 

An important dimension of kaitiakitanga was tuku (similar to the concept of lease), through which a hapu with mana whenua or mana moana would grant temporary user rights to another hapu. This allowed a neighbouring hapu or a related hapu to become kaitiaki within a certain area, but with an obligation to give something in return. This was as much a social alliance between hapu as it was a practical operation, and often occurred in return for the promise of warriors, as a peace offering, or as compensation. Mana whenua or mana moana was not transferred, and the group receiving tuku did not usually use the land or resources as if they had mana over them (for example, their dead were not buried on tuku land). Tuku would either be short-term (1-2 generations at most) or long-term, in which case the rights to manage land and resources may eventually be combined (for example through marriage). In some cases, it was made implicit that title remained with the original rangatira. These cases were referred to as tuku rangatira. Other concepts similar to tuku were taiapure, which involved coastal iwi setting aside areas for inland iwi to fish, and mataitai, which similarly set aside areas for shellfish gathering. 

Kaitiakitanga represents a number of concepts that tie together the physical, environmental, spiritual, economic and political aspects of Māori society. It establishes relationships humans have with the environment, the spiritual world and each other. It also provides a means through which hapu identify with an area or resource and strengthen their ties to it. In particular, kaitiakitanga provides a framework in which practices for responsible management of resources may function. 

Resource Management Practices 

According to Kawharu (1998), Māori resource management philosophies and practices were highly structured and organised. The Māori lunar calendar (maramataka) had a specific name for every day of the month, each day being important for particular activities (e.g. planting, harvesting or fowling). Various practices were, and still are used by Māori to ensure the long-term survival of resources, and therefore hapu and iwi. 

The most notable of these practices was rahui, a ritual prohibition enforced to temporarily remove a resource from use. Rahui is implemented whenever the mauri of an area or resource is in jeopardy through over-use or some other significant event. The most frequent reason for placing an area under rahui is to allow time for a resource to recover from over-use. But rahui could also be put in place where a resource was marked out for a particular purpose (e.g. a certain tree for use as a waka) or to be harvested for a significant event (such as a tangi or tribal gathering). If there was a death at sea and the body not found, rahui would be implemented on resources in the area. Rahui was sometimes used as a form of agricultural rotation, removing individual areas from use on a cyclic basis. 

When rahui is implemented, a tohunga will perform a karakia asking the relevant spiritual powers to intervene, render the area tapu (sacred and prohibited), offer protection and strengthen the mauri. The enhancing of mauri in the resource is the key outcome of rahui. Once mauri is restored, the life-giving ability of the resource will once again flourish. While mauri is not created by humans, a tohunga could imbue particular objects (such as a building or stone) with mauri by careful observation of karakia. These objects could then serve as a vessel for the spiritual powers to promote well-being within an object or area. Mauri stones were used in this way to aid regeneration during rahui. 

Agricultural practices always involved the use of karakia. On some occasions, a stone or particular tree may have had karakia performed to give it the authority to contain the mauri of an entire resource. The object could then act as a vessel for spiritual powers to mediate, offer protection and ensure that the resource was well-managed. For example, a significant stone in a kumara plantation would be selected, through which Rongomatane could intervene and assist with generating a good crop. In some cases, a kaitiaki such as a lizard would also be appointed to look after the mauri (Kawharu, 1998). 

Karakia were performed at every stage of managing resources, from early preparation to harvesting. Offerings were made to atua prior to planting, karakia were recited to encourage fish into fishing grounds and also before snaring kiore. The growing season was considered tapu, as were fowling seasons, and even those engaged in preparing or harvesting resources. Karakia were then subsequently performed to lift tapu as required. Karakia and tapu were used to discipline the behaviour of those directly or indirectly involved in resource gathering. Respect for spiritual authority was important if fish, birds or crops were to be healthy and plentiful (Kawharu, 1998). 

Western Concepts of Sustainability 

Fragmented Worldview 

Until the 16th century the Western world had a holistic view of nature as God’s plan. The holistic worldview interconnected knowledge of the environment, the spiritual world and culture, as shown by the circle in Figure 3 . As rational, scientific thought began to develop, specialised branches of knowledge emerged. Figure 3 shows that as this occurred, each branch became separate from the others, and fragmented from the whole body of knowledge: 

Figure 3: Holistic and Fragmented Worldviews (Morgan, 2004b after Roberts, 2001)



 The heliocentric universe of Copernicus was developed solely from a scientific standpoint, without recourse to spiritual or cultural knowledge. In fact, this theory was condemned as heretical. Breaking away from religious and cultural constraints allowed Western science to freely explore the universe, leading to an unprecedented level of detailed knowledge and technological innovations. However, social, cultural, spiritual and environmental concerns soon fell by the wayside. The industrial revolution and technological progress increased our ability to destroy ecosystems, acidify the atmosphere, damage the ozone layer and pollute aquatic or terrestrial environments. In 1798, Malthus predicted that Earth had a finite carrying capacity for the human population, beyond which it could not sustain us. It is largely from considering the impacts that our species has had on the planet that a new movement in Western science began, leading to the development and now implementation of a sustainability ethic. 

Universal Concepts 

Until the turn of the 20th century, Western science viewed the universe as composed of indestructible atoms of solid matter existing in infinite space and absolute time.

It conformed to strict mechanical laws operating in an absolutely predictable manner. New physicists such as Max Planck (quantum theory), Albert Einstein (relativity), Werner Heisenberg (uncertainty principle) and others introduced entirely new concepts. 

The current Western scientific view is that the universe is finite in extent and relative in time. There is no absolute rest, size or motion. Matter does not exist of indestructible atoms of solid matter but rather as a complex series of rhythmical patterns of energy. Under these conditions, the atom needs only a minimal space and time in which to exist (the uncertainty principle). It is process, not simply inert matter. The new physicists proposed a construct for the universe consisting of a real world behind the world of sense perception. This world cannot be apprehended by direct means, but the concept may be grasped by speculative means and the use of symbol: 

E = m.c 2



Development of Sustainability Principles 

In 1962, Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, speaking about the effects of agricultural pesticides on animal species and human health. This book used Western scientific principles to show interactions between the economy, the environment and human well-being. This was a watershed event, and has been referred to as a turning point in our understanding of these interconnections (Boyle, 2004). The genesis of sustainability as a concept in Western science was in 1987, when the World Commission on Environment and Development published the Brundtland Report. This introduced and defined sustainable development as being: 

Development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. 

(World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987) 

On a national level, the New Zealand Society for Sustainability Engineering and Science (NZSSES) was launched in 2003 to contribute to the development and implementation of sustainability engineering and science and prepare informed comment on public policy issues. The NZSSES provides a network through which engineers, scientists, planners, policy makers and others can make sustainability a part of all engineering and resource management activities within New Zealand. The three guiding principles of sustainability as seen by the NZSSES are: 

·        maintaining the viability of the planet

·        providing for equity within and between generations

·        solving problems holistically 

Sustainability attempts to change the recent narrow-minded focus of Western society on technological innovation or financial gain. The three pillars of sustainability are seen as the economic, social and environmental spheres, all of which are inter-related. Figure 4 shows the three as distinct, but with some overlap. Sustainable activities must take place at the intersection of all three. This model is referred to as weak sustainability, since it does not accurately represent the real situation. For instance, the model shows a large part of the economy existing outside the environment, when in reality it requires the input of natural resources. 

Figure 4: Weak Sustainability



The strong sustainability model (Figure 5 ) recognises that the economy only exists within the confines of society, which in turn only exists within the environment. 

Figure 5: Strong Sustainability



 The differences between the two are highly significant. The strong sustainability model indicates, quite correctly, that unlimited economic growth is impossible. The economy only exists to serve members of a society, and it requires the input of resources from the environment to function. Definitions of the pillars of sustainability vary somewhat. The Dutch Social-Economic Planning Council uses people, profit and planet. In the 19th century, Le Play proposed a similar framework emphasising family, work patterns and environment. Additions to the three key pillars include cultural, ethical, technical or functional. Where culture is not allocated a separate category, it must be considered as an integral part of the social sphere. Technical or functional issues can in some cases be considered under the economic sphere.

Kettle (2004) incorporates sub-categories within the three main categories to give the framework shown in Table 2 : 

Table 2: Sustainability Categories (Kettle, 2004) 








Natural Environment

Built Environment


These are the more subjective qualities.


These processes represent the interactions between people and their built and natural environment.

Institutional refers to legal and regulatory considerations.



Air/land/water quality and pipes/buildings. The more concrete, objective qualities.



Measuring Sustainability 

Various sustainability measurement techniques have been developed, the most common of which is triple bottom line (TBL) reporting. Using TBL reporting, companies that previously reported only their financial performance are now also measuring and reporting their impacts on the environment and society. Sometimes, cultural impacts are assessed separately, in which case this is referred to as quadruple bottom line (QBL) reporting. TBL reporting provides a pathway for companies to become more socially and environmentally responsible. Once measurements of performance are given, targets can be set and improvements made. TBL reporting also enables shareholders and other interested parties to assess the overall performance of a company, and take a more holistic approach to investment decisions. A growing segment of consumers make decisions based on factors other than quality and price. This is the reason for the increasing popularity of products such as plant-based washing powder, organic foods and fair trade coffees. With ethical investors in mind, a Dow Jones Sustainability Index has been created, ranking companies listed on the stock exchange in terms of environmental and social as well as economic performance. The Global Reporting Initiative, associated with the United Nations Environment Programme, was formed to produce sustainability reporting guidelines that could be applied globally, to any organisation. The guidelines are currently translated into 10 languages. 

A number of other measurement techniques have been developed on the same principles as TBL reporting. Figure 6 shows a technique developed for a mine site, with scores given for 16 possible environmental or social impacts specific to the operation.  100 % represents no impact, with greater or lesser scores representing positive or negative impact. The data behind the construction of this diagram is detailed enough to be meaningful, but the diagram enables the environmental and social performance of this mine to be assessed visually, and compared with other sites or a reference case. The more negative impacts there are, the smaller the shaded area becomes. This particular site scored well on minimising visual, noise and dust impacts, but poorly on greenhouse gas emissions and solid waste minimisation. 

Figure 6: Impacts from Mining (Burkitt and Preston, 2004)


The overall impact that a product or service has on the environment can be determined through a life cycle analysis (LCA). LCA evaluates environmental impacts associated with each life stage of a product or system, from raw material through production to finished product and end of life disposal or recycling, including transportation between stages. At each stage, the raw material and energy inputs required and the emissions to air, land or water are assessed. Where inputs have associated environmental effects these are also included, for example greenhouse gas emission from coal-fired electricity generation. An LCA establishes a baseline estimate of the total impact that a product or service has on the environment. It is then possible to identify areas for improvement or compare different scenarios. Conventional LCA does not calculate economic or social impacts. 

Hellström et al (2000) proposed a set of criteria which could be used to rank the overall impacts of a project or process ( Table 3 ). These criteria can be used to compare the relative sustainability of a number of different options at the planning stage (multi-criteria analysis).  

Table 3: Hellström Model Criteria (Hellström et al, 2000) 







Health and Hygiene



·         availability of clean water

·         risk of infection

·         exposure to toxic compounds

·         working environment



Social and Cultural



·         easy to understand

·         acceptance






·         groundwater preservation

·         eutrophication

·         contribution to global warming

·         spreading of toxic compounds

·         use of natural resources






·         capital cost

·         operation and maintenance cost



Functional and Technical



·         robustness

·         performance

·         flexibility



The above measures of sustainability enable negative impacts to be quantified with a view to reducing them, but there is increasing concern that this does not suitably address sustainability. TBL reporting is sometimes used as little more than a marketing tool to differentiate a company and provide competitive advantage. It must be remembered that the overall goal is sustainability, not simply receiving a good report card, as illustrated by the following quote (Kettle, 2004 after Daly, 1996): 

It is well known that TB patients cough less as they get better. So the number of coughs per day was taken as a quantitative measure of the patient’s improvement. Small microphones were attached to the patient’s beds, and their coughs were duly recorded and tabulated. The staff quickly perceived that they were being evaluated based on the number of times their patients coughed. Coughing steadily declined as doses of codeine were more frequently prescribed. Relaxed patients cough less. Unfortunately the patients got worse, precisely because they were not coughing up and spitting out the congestion. The cough index was abandoned.

The cough index totally subverted the activity it was designed to measure because people served the abstract quantitative index instead of the concrete qualitative goal of health. 

(Daly, 1996) 

Donnelly and Boyle (2004) found that sustainability measurement techniques were not a practical tool for engineers to use on an everyday basis, except for the assessment of large projects with significant budgets and personnel available. The techniques were found to be too complicated, too data and time intensive and too expensive. Also, the measures are most often applied at the site or project level, when what is really needed for sustainability is coordinated, integrated, multi-disciplinary planning at the regional level. Threats to the sustainability of critical systems and processes need to be identified, and actions taken to address them. Reporting techniques are generally focussed on the past and the short-term future, whereas sustainability should ideally focus on the medium term (50-100 years) and the long-term (1000 years). Boyle (2004) advocates risk-based future thinking as an alternative to sustainability reporting techniques. In risk analysis there is always some chance of failure, which is realistic in terms of resources, since there will always be some possibility of natural disaster. Boyle assumes that society will still exist 1000 years from now, stating that we must acknowledge this and plan accordingly. Planning involves realising that: 

Using this technique, sustainability is measured as the probability of activities being able to continue without damage to the environment or society or economy. Full sustainability is considered as less than 5 % risk over 1000 years. Donnelly and Boyle (2004) concluded that technological advances alone are insufficient to ensure sustainable development. Far reaching social, cultural, economic, regulatory and institutional changes are also required, collectively referred to as the eco-restructuring of society. 

Well-being is a final goal, only meaningful if it is sustainable in the long term. Wealth is an intermediate goal, valuable when it contributes to the final goals, and not when it does not. Growth, efficiency and consumption are also intermediate goals, not ends in themselves. Sustainability engineering is necessary but will never be more than part of what is needed by society, for the journey towards sustainability. A complete revision of the nation’s economic goals is probably the most important plank of a sustainability policy. Sustainable development is at base a moral issue. 

(Peet, 2004) 


Moving Towards Sustainability 

Sustainability concerns were addressed by the leaders of almost 150 nations at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. A global sustainable development action plan known as Agenda 21 was negotiated and agreed on, and four international treaties were signed (on climate change, biodiversity, desertification and high-seas fishing). The United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development was established to monitor the implementation of these agreements and act as a forum for the ongoing negotiation of international policies on environment and development. 

International policies now in place include the Montreal Protocol (1987) which phased out the use of chemicals depleting the ozone layer, and the Kyoto Protocol (1997) which sets targets for signatory countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow global climate change. These international agreements are crucial to address key issues affecting the global environment, to empower individual countries to legislate for sustainable development at a national level, and to ensure as far as possible that all countries are doing their part in contributing to the sustainability of the planet.  

There is an increasing interest in developing sustainable technologies and infrastructure.

A sustainable wastewater treatment technology has been defined as one that involves low energy input, cost, maintenance requirement and environmental impacts (Pratt et al, 2004). Sustainable nutrient removal technologies to reduce the impacts of on-site wastewater on groundwater and surface water bodies were investigated by Pratt et al . For phosphorus removal, wastewater can be passed over rock filters. Removal of phosphorus has in the past been achieved by chemical precipitation, involving the addition of chemicals and creates a waste sludge problem. The rock filter technology investigated was low cost, simple and required little energy input. In addition, there is potential to use waste slag from a steel mill as a rock filter media, meaning that this could be diverted from landfill. 

The use of a foam media biofilter for nitrogen removal in on-site wastewater treatment systems was also studied. This involves the growth of microorganisms on foam media for the conversion of NH3/NH4+ to NO2­-/NO3- and subsequently inert N2 gas which escapes to the atmosphere. In a foam media biofilter, these two conversion processes occur in a single chamber, reducing the size and cost of system required. Conventional alternatives to foam media biofilters have included aerated treatment plants, which require forced aeration and therefore high energy input, or zeolite filters which simply store nitrogen for off-site disposal. Foam media biofilters, on the other hand, require no forced aeration and result in an inert end product.  

Examples of sustainable development are occurring through assistance programmes in developing nations. Funded by organisations such as the Asian Development Bank, these programmes focus not only on environmental sustainability, but also the use of local resources to benefit the local economy, plus a commitment to decentralisation and local empowerment (Tolley et al, 2004). The philosophy behind local empowerment is that aid creates a dependent society, whereas the aim of sustainable development is to develop society, and encourage people to take ownership of their infrastructure and resources. This is accomplished by ensuring that development projects: 

·        adapt to local materials and resources

·        adapt to social and cultural conditions

·        optimise the integrity of built structures

·        set up the skills base, management systems and community ownership necessary for sustainability

Human resource development lies at the heart of sustainability. This need for sustainability education is also recognised by other sustainability advocates. It is recognised that at present there is a gap of critically thinking practitioners who have a combination of the passion for a sustainable future and an understanding of the practical realities needed to effect that change (Mamula-Stojnic, 2004). Similarly, it has been reported that employers complain of engineers graduating with little knowledge of how their work affects and is affected by social and economic concerns (Kelly, 2004). On the positive side, it can be seen that there is a definite shift in Western scientific thinking, and a move towards a more sustainable future. This emerging mindset is expected to gain support and eventually replace the current dominant mindset ( Figure 7 , Table 4 ). 

Figure 7: Growth of the Emerging Mindset (Peet, 2004)


Table 4: Dominant and Emerging Mindsets (Peet, 2004) 

Dominant Mindset

Emerging Mindset

Growth is always good.

We exist in a world of limits.

Markets alone can solve all problems.

Markets don’t measure everything that is important.

We are separate from nature.

We are an integral part of nature.

Problems are caused by the behaviours of others.

Often the structure of systems causes problems.


The Interface 

Fundamental Differences 

Humans perceive the world through a cultural filter. The worldview of any person is biased by their cultural background, and each culture patterns perceptions of reality into its own interpretations of what are actual, probable, possible or impossible. There are a number of fundamental differences between the worldviews of mātauranga Māori and Western science. But at the same time, emerging trends in sustainability are creating an area of common ground. Morgan (2004b) following the work of Mere Roberts identified underlying similarities and differences between the knowledge systems of indigenous knowledge and Western science.  

Western science is silo thinking with a treatment paradigm. Indigenous knowledge is holistic thinking with a healing paradigm. 

(Morgan, 2004b) 

The treatment paradigm of Western science is seen in the effects-based thinking of concepts such as TBL reporting. The healing paradigm of tīkanga Māori is expressed in practices such as rahui. In Te Ao Māori, spiritual and physical realities cannot be considered as separate entities. The way in which the spiritual and physical co-exist as two parts of the whole is symbolised in the pikorua pattern shown in Figure 8 . Kawharu (1998) after Marsden (1988) states that reality consists of a complex series of energy patterns transcending spiritual and material worlds.  

Figure 8: Pikorua Pattern 


In contrast, current Western society is seen as being value-free, materialistic, analytical and mathematical: 

Today’s society requires that we put our hearts in a safe deposit box, and replace our brains with pocket calculators. I do not accept this attitude. Without spirituality, humankind will cease to exist. 

(Morgan, 2004b after Mander, 1991) 

The separation between the spiritual and physical has great implications when it comes to relationships with the environment. The Māori connection to the land is emphasised through genealogy. Conversely, modern Western society treats land as a commodity. Morgan (2004b) uses the case of the Auckland region to emphasise the differences in thinking. On the one hand, the land is Te Ika a Maui and also the personification of Papatuanuku. As a living being it must be treated with respect. On the other hand, the Auckland region is seen as a collection of land designations, to be exploited, although with some legislative constraints. Morgan (2004b) also cites different cultural attitudes to pregnancy and afterbirth as indicative of overall attitudes towards land. In Māori culture, the whenua is buried in the land at a significant site to strengthen the connection with Papatuanuku. Western science teaches us that the placenta is hazardous waste, to be disposed of accordingly. The relationship that Tangata Whenua have with the land is emphasised by Tīpene O’Regan: 

I was challenged recently by a very earnest Christian who declared: “Surely nature is for all of us - we share it.” 

I replied, “Yes, I am quite happy to share it. But what I want you to recognise is that if we are sharing it, well and good, but it is we that are the descendants from it.” 

(O’Regan, 1984) 

Table 5 shows some of the fundamental differences that exist between the Māori and Western scientific worldviews. It should be noted that many of the Western scientific views are those of the dominant mindset, which are gradually being eroded. This comparison can then be considered a kind of worst-case scenario, emphasising as many differences as possible. 

Table 5: Key Fundamental Differences 


Mātauranga Māori

Western Science




·         holistic thinking with a healing paradigm


·         silo thinking with a treatment paradigm




·         intertwined with and inseparable from the physical world



·         separate from rational, scientific thought


Values in Knowledge System



·         value-laden


·         value-free


Theory vs Intuition



·         use of intuitive learning


·         strong reliance on theory


Explanations of Cause and Effect


·         include all natural and supernatural phenomena, metaphor and narrative



·         objective, analytical, ideally mathematical, value-free


Transmission of Knowledge



·         traditionally oral


·         almost exclusively written


Access to Knowledge


·         tapu knowledge restricted to those considered worthy


·         free access to knowledge, except where confidential or classified



Relationship with Land and Resources



·         symbiotic and reciprocal, descended from land


·         ownership, humans separate from land




·         buried as connection to land and whānau



·         considered hazardous waste


Attitude to Water


·         special significance as containing mauri



·         resource to be exploited or used for recreation


Disposal of Wastewater into Water


·         destroys mauri of water and is offensive



·         acceptable, depending on level of treatment


Diverting or Combining Waters across Catchments



·         major concern as inappropriate or offensive


·         not a concern, depending on availability of water


 Differences in allowing access to knowledge within each system may seem minor at first, but they have far-reaching implications. The higher levels of traditional Māori knowledge are tapu, and imparted only to someone who has proved that they are worthy of holding such knowledge without abusing it. The inherent dangers are explained in this quote from Marsden and Henare (1992): 

One of the elders who had of course heard of the atom bomb asked me to explain the difference between an atom bomb and explosive bomb. I took the word hihiri, which in Māoridom means pure energy. Here I recalled Einstein’s concept of the real world behind the natural world as being comprised of rhythmical patterns of pure energy and said to him that this was essentially the same concept. 

He then exclaimed: “Do you mean to tell me that the Pākehā scientists have managed to rend the fabric of the universe?”

I said, “Yes.” 

“I suppose they shared their knowledge with the politicians?” 


“But do they know how to sew it back together again?” 


“That’s the trouble with sharing such tapu knowledge. Politicians will always abuse it.”

 (Marsden and Henare, 1992) 


Emerging Similarities 

The current Western scientific understanding of the universe is that matter does not exist of indestructible atoms of solid matter, but as a complex series of rhythmical patterns of energy. This is analogous to the Māori concept of Tua-Uri, the world of dark which existed before the natural world, and continues to contain the cosmic processes that operate as complex, rhythmic energy patterns which sustain our world.  

The three sustainability principles of the NZSSES (viability of the planet, inter-generational equity and holistic problem solving) are also at the heart of the Māori view of resource management. Kaitiakitanga has manifold aspects relating to the social, cultural, economic, political and environmental spheres. Sustainability science also strive to achieve a holistic view by considering these different aspects. 

The key similarities identified between Western and Māori views of sustainability and resource management are shown in Table 6 . Many of these have only come about recently, through the development of sustainability principles and the growth of the emerging mindset. 

Table 6: Key Similarities 





Mātauranga Māori


Western Science


Underlying Structure of the Universe


·         world of Tua-Uri composed of complex, rhythmical patterns sustaining the natural world



·         all matter is composed of complex, rhythmical patterns of energy


Spatial Extent of the Universe



·         finite


·         finite


Knowledge System


·         general similarities in accumulating, systemising and storing information



·         general similarities in accumulating, systemising and storing information


Holistic View



·         kaitiakitanga encompassing society, culture, economy, environment and political



·         sustainability of environment, society and economy



Resource Managers



·         kaitiaki


·         local government


Providing for Future Generations



·         ngā whakatīpuranga


·         inter-generational equity


Limitations on Resource Use



·         rahui


·         quotas, size restrictions, resource consents


Temporary Resource Use Rights



·         tuku


·         lease




·         species and landscape are taonga



·         amenity values


Measurement of

Long-Term Viability



·         mauri


·         sustainability


Potable Water for Flushing Toilets



·         destroys mauri of water and is offensive


·         wasteful, expensive and therefore unsustainable




·         permeable surfaces prevent contamination of freshwater



·         permeable surfaces reduce flooding


Significant Areas



·         tapu areas


·         heritage areas


 As well as the academic comparisons that can be made, similarities are often found at a more personal level. Most people, regardless of cultural background, feel an attachment to a certain geographical area as home. They may also have an attachment to an ancestral or clan home. The unique nature of water is also acknowledged universally, in certain ways. Western religious rituals such as baptism make use of the spiritual qualities of water.  

Despite some fundamental differences, there is an increasing area of common ground between Western sustainability science and mātauranga Māori. 


Current Legislative Framework 

The management of resources in Aotearoa/New Zealand is theoretically conducted by Tangata Whenua and central government, in a partnership initiated through the Treaty of Waitangi (1840). Central government passes legislation affecting resource management and decision making at a local level, which is regulated by a system of regional, district and city councils (Figure 9):

Figure 9: Resource Management Hierarchy (Morgan, 2004a)



 The English version of the Treaty of Waitangi (1840) guaranteed to iwi: 

…the full exclusive and undisturbed possession of their Lands and Estates, Forests, Fisheries and other properties which they may collectively or individually possess so long as it is their wish and desire to retain the same in their possession. 

(Article the Second, Treaty of Waitangi, 1840) 

The Māori version of the Treaty on the surface appears to have words to much the same effect, guaranteeing to iwi: 

   …tino rangatiratanga o ratou wenua o ratou kainga me o ratou taonga katoa. 

(Ko te Tuarua, Tiriti O Waitangi, 1840) 

But differences between the concepts of tino rangatiratanga and title extinguishment have caused a great deal of conflict over the years. Holding tino rangatiratanga over land implies that kaitiakitanga can, and must be practiced by Tangata Whenua. When Māori gave up possession of their land to Europeans it was usually assumed they would retain tino rangatiratanga and mana whenua, as would have occurred under tuku, and as seemed to be guaranteed by Te Tiriti. The European purchaser, on the other hand, would naturally have been under the impression that all ownership rights were transferred, and previous title extinguished.  

Without going into detail, there have been numerous instances where Māori were deprived of the ability to exercise kaitiakitanga (through tino rangatiratanga), in direct contravention of Te Tiriti. The Waitangi Tribunal found in each of the Whanganui River report (1999), the Mohaka River report (1992) and the Te Ika Whenua report (1998) that the rivers under claim were and still are the taonga of iwi, and that the Crown had breached Treaty principles. The Tribunal recommended that the Crown: 

·        consult fully with Māori in the exercising of kawanatanga (governorship)

·        redress Treaty breaches

·        act towards its Treaty partner in good faith, fairly and reasonably 

Recent government legislation has sought to restore the exercise of kaitiakitanga, and has made consultation with Tangata Whenua compulsory where appropriate. This has provided a framework for resource management to be conducted in true partnership between iwi and government. Legislation such as the Resource Management Act (1991) and the Local Government Act (2002) also incorporates the need for sustainable development, with the use of both Western scientific and Māori concepts. Local authorities are required to act within the confines of such legislation, and so the system we currently have is now closer to that shown in Figure 9 than it has ever been. 

The Resource Management Act (1991) incorporated a range of Māori concepts, including some newly introduced into New Zealand legislation. Concepts referred to include kaitiakitanga, mana whenua, Tangata Whenua, tīkanga Māori and wāhi tapu. The Resource Management Act also introduced new Western scientific concepts such as sustainable development, renewable energy and amenity values (which are the intrinsic values that ecosystems have of their own right). The concept of mauri was initially contained in the Resource Management Bill, but was replaced by amenity values on the basis that the legal system could not cope with the concept of mauri at the time (Morgan, 2004a). Features of the Resource Management Act relating to Māori and to sustainability are summarised in Table 7 : 

Table 7: Features of Resource Management Act (1991) 









Purpose of Act



·         to promote sustainable development


5 (1)


Definition of Environment


·         includes environment, society, culture, economy and amenity values



2 (1)


Definition of Sustainable Development


·         meeting present needs while ensuring future needs can be met

·         safeguarding the life-giving capacity of air, water, soil and ecosystems

·         avoiding, remedying or mitigating any adverse effects on the environment



5 (2)


Treaty of Waitangi



·         resource managers must take into account the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi (1840)





National Importance of Māori Culture


·         relationship of Maori and their culture and traditions with their ancestral lands, water, sites, wāhi tapu, and other taonga

·         protection of recognised customary activities



6 (e)

6 (g)


Resource Managers Must Have Regard to


·         kaitiakitanga

·         stewardship

·         efficient use of resources and energy

·         environment, ecosystems and amenity values

·         finite characteristics of resources

·         renewable energy



7 (a) - 7 (j)


Regional and District Plans


·         local authorities must consider resource management planning documents produced by iwi authorities



66 (2A)

74 (2A)


Water Rights



·         no person may take, use, dam or divert water in a manner that contravenes a regional plan unless allowed by a resource consent



14 (1)

14 (2)





·         no person may discharge any contaminant to land or water, or from commercial premises to air, unless allowed by regional plan or resource consent



15 (1)

15 (2)




·         must be public where possible

·         must avoid unnecessary formality

·         recognise tīkanga Māori where appropriate

·         receive evidence in Te Reo Māori

·         may exclude public when necessary to avoid serious offence to tīkanga Māori or avoid disclosing location of wāhi tapu






 A resource consent is required under Sections 14 and 15 whenever a water use activity or contaminant discharge contravenes or is not allowed by a regional plan. A resource consent may be either notified or non-notified, depending on the nature of the activity. If a consent is notified, then consultation with affected parties is required. This may include neighbours or interest groups such as Forest & Bird, but must always include Tangata Whenua. Consultation is basically a process by which the person applying for the resource consent seeks approval for the proposed activity from all affected parties, with the Environment Court as the final authority in the case of any objections that cannot be resolved. 

City, district and regional councils are delegated responsibility for local government through the Local Government Act (2002) and its various amendments. An analysis of the Local Government Act, and the requirements that it puts on local authorities, shows that sustainable development and partnerships with Tangata Whenua are both fundamental concerns ( Table 8 ): 

Table 8: Features of Local Government Act (2002) 









Purpose of the Act



·         provides for democratic local government recognising the diversity of communities

·         provides for local authorities to promote sustainable development



3 (a)

3 (d)


Purpose of Local Government


·         to enable democratic local decision-making and action by, and on behalf of communities

·         to promote the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of communities, in the present and for the future



10 (a)

10 (b)


Partnership with Māori



·         provide opportunities for Māori to contribute to decision-making processes

·        take into account the relationship of Māori and their culture and traditions with their ancestral land, water, sites, wāhi tapu, valued flora and fauna, and other taonga.



14 (1d)

77 (c)

81 (1)



Sustainable Development Approach



·         consider social, economic and cultural well-being of people and communities

·         maintain and enhance quality of environment

·         consider the reasonably foreseeable needs of future generations



14 (1h)

77 (1b)


Long-Term Council Community Plan



·         identify and report against community outcomes

·         provide integrated decision-making and co-ordination of resources

·         provide a long-term focus for the decisions and activities of the local authority

·         provide public participation in decision-making processes



93 (6)


Other government initiatives targeting sustainability and environmental protection include: 

·        Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (1996)

·        New Zealand Waste Strategy (2002)

·        Sustainable Development Programme of Action (2003)

·        Govt3 initiative to improve sustainability in government

·        ratification of the Kyoto Protocol (1997) and introduction of a carbon tax 

Current New Zealand legislation provides a framework in which resource management and local government must: 

·        work in partnership with Tangata Whenua

·        strive to achieve sustainable development

·        consider a long-term view of the environment, society, culture and the economy

·        be democratic, with opportunities for public participation in decision-making 


Concerns for Māori 

While the framework for mutually beneficial sustainable management of resources now exists, Māori have often found in the past that reality falls short of these promises.  

Western society is capitalist, consumer based and driven by market considerations. Decision-making is most often done through cost-benefit analysis. In most cases even environmental impacts are quantified in this manner, with a cost allocated to impacts based on the requirement to avoid, remedy or mitigate effects. In rational Western thinking there is also a disconnection of the physical and spiritual, the secular and the sacred (Marsden and Henare, 1992). Ngāti Whatua for example have expressed concern that government legislation does not provide for spiritual as well as physical dimensions. 

The treatment of Māori throughout consultation processes has often left much to be desired. Taylor (1984) relates a series of embarrassing and humiliating early experiences within the legal system. The consultative process frequently takes place as an add-on, after the actual decision-making process, and can be condescending to Māori.  

Māori are expected only to conserve and protect resources, rather than use them for economic gain, and access to productive land has sometimes proved difficult (O’Regan, 1984). According to Morgan (2004a), power is also an issue, as local authorities are reluctant to share this with Tangata Whenua. 

Tangata Whenua are often seen as nothing more than another interest group, similar for example to the Forest & Bird Society. The Māori relationship to and identification with land is not considered. There can also be fear, mistrust or suspicion of Māori values and culture since these are not well understood. 

Practices that are highly offensive to Māori are continuing today, such as the discharging of effluent into water, the mixing of different types of water, and the diverting or combining of water from different catchments. The disposal of wastewater to Lake Rotorua has turned the food bowl of the Tangata Whenua into a toilet bowl (Morgan, 2004a). 

Despite the advancements made in sustainable development, and in fostering partnerships between iwi and government, Māori still have serious concerns with: 

·        fundamental aspects of a capitalist, non-spiritual Western society

·        consultation sometimes condescending

·        expectation to only consider environmental or cultural values, not economic well-being

·        lack of regard for Māori cultural values

·        the continuation of highly offensive practices 

These issues are major stumbling blocks in the way of a mutually beneficial partnership between iwi and government for sustainable development. For the goodwill of Tangata Whenua to be given, there is a reciprocal expectation of trust, of power sharing and a significant role in decision making (Morgan, 2004a). 

The loss and erosion of indigenous knowledge through lack of use or relevance, and the isolation from its origins in the physical environment is a huge threat to the cultural identity of hapu. Finally the Tangata Whenua, the people of this land have nowhere else to go. Nowhere else in the world is it more appropriate to assert Te Arawa cultural values and beliefs in relation to the environment, than within the Te Arawa rohe. 

(Morgan, 2004a) 


The Mauri Model 

Figure 9 showed how Māori and central government are partners in resource management in New Zealand, as determined by the Treaty of Waitangi. Considerable difficulties have arisen when the approaches favoured by Western science and government are inappropriate or offensive to Māori. On the other hand, local government and decision makers need to use decision-making tools that are rational, can be understood, and to demonstrate that they have followed correct procedures having some scientific basis. There is thus a need for a decision-making tool that can be used at the Western-Māori interface, which is where most local government projects are developed. The mauri model developed by Kepa Morgan of Mahi Maioro Professionals is a set of assessment criteria similar to the Hellström model. It uses terms from Western science and mātauranga Māori that may be considered analogous. Corresponding to the four aspects of sustainability (environment, culture, society and economy) are four levels or spheres: the environment, hapu, community and whānau ( Figure 10 ): 

Figure 10: Mauri Model (Morgan, 2004a)



The sizes of each circle reflect the fact that aspects are weighted to give a greater emphasis to wide-reaching concerns. Note that community refers to the needs of the community at large (Māori and non-Māori) and includes future needs such as land availability, job creation and recreational opportunities. Generally the weightings used would be 40 % environment, 30 % hapu, 20 % community and 10 % whānau. At each level, the effect of a development, project or process on mauri is given a rating as indicated in Table 9 : 

Table 9: Rating of Effects on Mauri (Morgan, 2004a) 


Effect on Mauri































Scores at each level are then multiplied by the appropriate weighting to give a final result. It should be noted that there are a wide range of factors that determine the effects on mauri. The assessment of effects should be carried out by Tangata Whenua or addressed in consultation.

At first glance, this may seem like another sustainability measurement technique that does not properly address sustainability. However there are some significant differences: 

·        connections between levels emphasised

·        mauri as the life-force is indicative of long-term sustainability

·        mauri includes spiritual and physical aspects

·        analogous Western scientific definitions allow easy interpretation 

While the mauri model is intended to be introduced to address some needs specific to Māori, mauri as the life-giving ability of an ecosystem could also be a valuable concept in Western sustainability science. Although mauri is a qualitative measure, it is analogous to indicators such as faecal coliform levels or species biodiversity used in Western science. Morgan (2004a) gives the example of Lake Rotorua. The diminished mauri of the lake resulting from wastewater discharges led to diminished mauri of the community, which manifested itself in cases of Blue Baby Syndrome. From a scientific standpoint, contamination of drinking water with nitrates led to infantile methaemoglobinemia, but however it was described, the overall effect was still the same. Morgan asserts that had the mauri model been applied, wastewater discharges to Lake Rotorua would not have been acceptable, and the human health effects could have been avoided. 

Case Studies 

Dry Composting Toilets 

The dominant Western practice of dealing with human toilet waste is to use flushing water to transport waste to a centralised wastewater treatment plant (or a small on-site treatment system) for treatment. The use of flushing water results in large quantities of contaminated water released to the environment following treatment to what is considered an appropriate quality (usually through a river or ocean outfall). Given the right conditions, dry composting toilets (DCTs) can instead be used for the breakdown of human effluent on site. Solid waste in a DCT, as well as organic matter such as toilet paper or food waste is broken down by aerobic bacteria, other microorganisms, or in some cases earthworms. Composting toilets were originally commercialised in Sweden, and have been an established technology there for more than 30 years (ARC, 2005). The objectives of a DCT are to: 

·        contain and immobilise or destroy pathogens

·        reduce volume of waste (up to 70 %) and improve handling of final product

·        provide option for on-site disposal where feasible 

Composting is a process with several strict requirements. There are a number of concerns expressed regarding the use of DCTs that have proven to be barriers to widespread use. However, many of these are perception issues only, and represent resistance from a society that would prefer to flush and forget wastes rather than take responsibility for treatment. Table 10 shows the requirements of DCTs, concerns that can result from requirements not being met and also existing solutions to the problems. It can be seen by examining the table that, depending on factors such as land availability or local environment, any actual problems associated with composting toilets can be overcome. 

Table 10: Dry Composting Toilet Requirements and Concerns 



Potential Concern





·         anaerobic conditions

·         no composting

·         odours

š      natural convection

·         warm air from compost rises

·         less odour than conventional flush toilet under aerobic conditions

š      forced aeration

·         standard design feature

·         requires 12 V fan with power supply

·         less odour than conventional flush toilet under aerobic conditions

Moisture Content

< 65 %


·         anaerobic conditions

·         no composting

·         odours

š      passive solar evaporation

·         location and siting requirements

·         may require exposure and glazing of one side

š      forced aeration

·         standard design feature

·         requires 12 V fan with power supply

·         less odour than conventional flush toilet under aerobic conditions

š      urine separation at pedestal

·         urine disposal required

š      urine separation in chamber

·         using mesh screens

·         urine disposal required

š      heated evaporation

·         power supply required

·         additional maintenance


Moisture Content

> 35 %


·         microorganism die-off

·         no composting

š      addition of moisture as required

·         concern during summer in certain locations

·         dependent on availability of water

·         homeowner time involved

Compost Pile Temperature > 20 °C


·         longer composting time

š      passive solar heating

·         location and siting requirements

š      bury compost chamber for insulation

·         difficult to access for compost removal

·         prevents passive solar heating

š      locate in house to utilise heat

·         possible regulatory barrier

C:N Ratio

> 30:1


·         longer composting time

š      addition of bulking agent such as sawdust

·         homeowner time involved


Compost Disposal


·         risk of infection

š      off-site disposal by contractor

·         6-monthly

·         less risk of infection than conventional OWTS

š      on-site disposal by homeowner

·         risk of infection must be minimised with training and proper equipment

·         homeowner time involved

·         may not be appropriate depending on lot size and surrounding environment

·         can minimise risk using batch composter with multiple bins

š      use batch composter with multiple bins

·         avoids exposure to uncomposted material


Treatment and


·         risk of infection

š      on-site soakage

·         may not be appropriate depending on lot size and surrounding environment

·         possible regulatory barriers

·         urine relatively sterile in most cases

·         some storage required

·         high percentage of pathogens inactivated during storage

š      off-site disposal by sewer

·         requires sewer connection

š      collection and off-site disposal by contractor

·         requires storage


Minimise Insects

·         nuisance

·         risk of infection

·         spider webs impeding airflow

š      provide screen on vent


·         problem may persist

š      clean periodically

·         problem may persist


·         system failure

š      contract with manufacturer

·         this requirement also exists for conventional OWTS

·         maintenance arrangements exist with some OWTS manufacturers for their products





·         risk of infection

š      on-site treatment and disposal

·         this requirement also exists for conventional OWTS

·         may not be appropriate depending on land availability and surrounding environment

š      off-site disposal by sewer

·         requires connection to sewer

Building Act

3 m Separation


š      further investigate applicability to DCTs

·         only required if DCT is considered as a privy

š      introduce rule in district or regional plan to waive 3 m separation

·         may not occur until DCTs more widely accepted


There are a number of advantages to installing dry composting toilets where feasible. Where adequate ventilation is provided, there will actually be less odour than a conventional flushing toilet. No flushing water is required, which is particularly attractive where water is scarce or expensive. This is not a major concern in Aotearoa, but it should be recognised that even when users are not charged directly, there are costs involved in the collection, treatment and distribution of potable water used for flushing. The use of potable water for flushing is unsustainable; many sources of drinking water in Aotearoa are underground aquifers that are used much faster than they are able to recharge. Flushing water accounts for around 19 % of the total water use of a household (GHD, 2003). DCTs are more acceptable to Māori, since they do not involve the use of water to transport human waste. Western sustainability advocates have also expressed concerns about the use of potable water for flushing:  

Jonathon Crockett has spent 30 years of his career so far in strategic planning and engineering of conventional sewerage systems; from small country towns to large city systems throughout Australia and overseas. There is little doubt that this work has been beneficial for the environment and society. However, more and more Jonathon questions our conventional approaches to many things. I see the water flush toilet as one symbol of our culture of “consume, flush and waste”. 

(GHD, 2003) 

Compost and in some cases urine from DCTs is returned to the land, promoting recovery of nutrients. This kind of thinking is more in line with the Tangata Whenua perspective that waste streams are not useless, but that wastes of different types and activities involving waste have physical and spiritual attributes such as their associated tapu and value in either context (Morgan, 2004a). Currently, only 12 % of nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) in wastewater are recovered from treatment plants in sludge and applied to land. Using DCTs this figure would be more like 80 % (GHD, 2003). Direct reuse on food crops would be unacceptable from both a Māori and Western scientific standpoint, but there could be a range of suitable uses such as forestry. Also, there were cases in pre-European times of Māori spreading waste on uncultivated land which would be rotated and used for food crops in later seasons (Morgan, prs com). Quantitative risk assessment in Europe has shown that risk levels are negligible provide urine and leachate is stored for 6 months before use, and solids are properly composted. If residues are used on dry-land grain crops or pasture health risk to consumers is negligible (GHD, 2003 after Johansson, 2000). 

Where the land available is not adequate, or would be sensitive to nutrient loading, composted waste must be transported off-site. This appears to be a point against DCTs, until you compare the amount of waste generation with conventional flushing toilets. In an average household, a conventional flushing toilet will produce 30 tonnes of sewage per year (the equivalent of two large tanker trucks), around 95 % of which is flushing water. Using a DCT the same household would produce around 1 tonne of waste in a year, the equivalent of five 200 L drums of urine and 100 kg of compost. This comparison puts the transport issue into some perspective (GHD, 2003). 

GHD consultants have conducted a feasibility study for a 5 year project monitoring the use of DCTs in a high-density inner city Melbourne development. It is proposed that 12 apartments developed by Bensons Property Group and designed by Demaine Partnership architects be provided with composting toilets. The two storey apartments would have a DCT on each floor, both connected to a single rotary bin composter in the basement (Australian Rota-Loo type, of which there are several thousand currently in use). Urine and leachate from the apartments would be collected in two separate centralised storage tanks, with all waste periodically removed and taken to an agricultural reuse trial site by an approved contractor. The demonstration project is intended to show that the technology is appropriate, marketable, environmentally beneficial and economically feasible for an urban apartment.  

Installation of DCTs would increase construction costs in each apartment by $3,000-6,000. However a survey conducted showed that 83 % of 55 respondents would consider buying an apartment with a DCT, and 76 % of respondents would consider paying an extra $5,000 for better water and energy efficiency. The 12 apartments would produce an estimated total of 12 tonnes per year of waste to be removed, of which 0.7 tonnes would be solid material. Emptying every 3-6 months, the annual transportation cost was calculated as $6,750 for the 12 apartments. This cost would be equal to or less than the annual operating cost savings in terms of reticulation and treatment. Overall energy usage would not be increased by DCTs, once the reduced requirements for transportation and treatment of wastewater were taken into account. The use of urine and leachate as a replacement fertiliser would lead to overall cost and energy savings. The monitoring and reuse trial is expected to cost $800,000 over the course of the project, for which funding has not yet been secured. 

Auckland Regional Council Technical Publication 58 suggests DCTs as a possible alternative on-site wastewater treatment system, and provides guidelines for their installation and use. In addition, there is an existing standard (AS/NZS 1546:2001) containing performance criteria for the assessment of DCTs. There are 10 suppliers of DCTs in New Zealand, 3 of which manufacture the entire system locally. Excess moisture is probably the greatest barrier to widespread use of DCTs in New Zealand. MWH New Zealand Ltd consultants report the most favourable locations for DCTs in New Zealand are warmer northern coastal and lowland environments. Some manufacturers recommend a minimum ambient air temperature of 18-20 °C since compost pile temperature rarely exceeds 10 °C above ambient. Without heating, composting times at ambient temperatures of 4-15 °C could be as high as 1 year (MWH, 2004b). Overseas test results cannot be applied to the New Zealand situation, and local testing is required. There is only a limited amount of information currently available on the performance of DCTs in New Zealand. Information from retailers only represents well maintained, well performing systems, and focuses on holistic environmental issues, with little information on technical processes and limitations. (MWH, 2004a after URS, 2003). 

In conclusion, a dry composting toilet is seen as a sustainable technology with several advantages over a conventional flushing toilet. Some of the existing concerns over the use of DCTs are perception issues, and there are solutions in most cases, depending on factors such as land availability and environment. Given the significant advantages that could be achieved in terms of water savings, nutrient recovery and acceptability to Māori, research should be conducted into the performance and overall benefits of DCTs. The advantages of DCTs over conventional flushing toilets are: 

·        maintain mauri of water

·        conserve water, with cost savings in some cases

·        recover 80 % of nutrients for return to land (compared with 12 % for flushing toilets)

·        reduce household sewage production by 30 times

·        less odour if ventilation is adequate

·        lower risk of infection than conventional OWTS

·        cost and energy savings from use of compost or urine as fertiliser

·        could reduce point loads from centralised wastewater treatment plants

·        more sustainable option than conventional on-site wastewater treatment systems 


Sustainable Buildings 

The design of infrastructure such as buildings for sustainability can dramatically reduce impacts on the environment and conserve resources. It can also lead to solutions that are acceptable to both Māori and Western advocates of sustainability. Sustainability features can include energy saving measures, water saving measures, sustainable wastewater and stormwater treatment systems and the use of non-hazardous materials.  

The LandCare Research building in Tamaki provides space for more than 85 staff, 6.5 million insects (the National Insect Collection), 600,000 fungi (the National Fungi Collection), containment and propagation glasshouse, and laboratories designed to meet exacting international standards. It was also designed for sustainability, to have energy costs 60-70 % less than those of a conventional building, to make minimal use of municipal infrastructure (water, wastewater, stormwater) and to be no more expensive than a conventional building (Lawton, 2004). 

Energy efficiency was achieved through building materials, insulated walls, roof and windows, heat recovery, low-energy light fittings, solar panels and a small wind generator. Insulation used was several times the recommended EECA guidelines. Wall insulation has decreased heat loss from 30 to 8 W/m2. Windows are double-glazed, reducing heat loss through the windows from 100 to 56 W/m2. There are also heat recovery systems in place in the refrigeration and air-conditioning systems. Achieving energy efficiency has required that staff minimise resource use, and manually open and close windows rather than relying on climate control. As a result, staff must be prepared to accept a wider climate comfort range than usual. It is expected that building temperatures will vary from 17 to 25 °C when the outside temperature is 6 to 27 °C. Overall energy cost savings are predicted to be $70,000 per year. 

The building has 7 composting toilets on the upper floors, feeding into two large composting units. These are located against the north wall to provide passive solar heating. The tanks are emptied every 6 months, and have external access to make service easier. Fully composted material will be applied to surrounding gardens. Urine is separated and disposed of to the sewer along with greywater from handbasins, since there is insufficient land area available for soakage. On the ground floor, low flush toilets have been installed since compost chambers would have been below flood level. Rainwater is harvested, stored in tanks and pumped using power from a small wind generator to roof tanks. From there it is used to flush urinals and the ground floor toilets. Rainwater is also used in the glasshouses. The carpark has a permeable surface that minimises stormwater runoff.  

Non-solvent paints were used in the building. In addition, laboratory floors were constructed from marmoleum, a material made from jute and natural resins. At the end of its 25 year design life, this material can be composted. Lawton summarised with some advice on the process of designing for sustainability: 

·        choose a design team committed to the goal

·        preferably one with experience in sustainable design

·        be prepared to take a perceived risk in moving away from the status quo

·        choose a framework for decision making

·        spend the time to consider the tradeoffs in terms of sustainable features

·        be able to see long-term operational cost savings as benefits 

A proposed marae at Te Atatu designed by Design Tribe will incorporate a range of features that enable the project to be a leading example of environmental, cultural, social and economic sustainability. The marae is to be built on 2.5 hectares of land at Harbourview-Orangihina transferred by Waitakere City Council for the purpose. Construction is due to begin in 2006, with completion in 2007. 

The orientation of the marae will be such that it is placed within a Māori cultural context, with current and historical references. Since this will be an urban marae (the third in Waitakere City), there will be two marae atea, comprising formal and informal areas. This will allow other activities to take place while still allowing the marae to perform its function in terms of tangi and other significant occasions. It is expected that the marae will be a point of interest for visitors, and the provision of separate formal and informal areas will allow for this as well. The wharenui is designed to hold up to 400 people and has an apex of 8 m. There will also be a whare rangatahi for local youth (Kelderman, prs com). 

The wharenui will face northeast, with the road behind. All buildings will be partially dug into the surrounding landscape, with turf roofs. This means that from the road, all that will be seen is grass rising up, and no buildings. This feature will help to reduce any impacts on sightlines through Harbourview to the ocean. In addition, turf will reduce stormwater runoff from roofs, allow evaporation and provide insulation. Stormwater will be collected from the carpark, run through a greywater filtration unit and used for flushing toilets on-site. Wastewater treatment on site will be to a level such that wastewater can be reused for flushing toilets, with any remaining quantities discharged to the landscape. The overall purpose of the infrastructure design is to reduce the costs associated with reticulated water and wastewater. The design also incorporates solar hot water heating, and photovoltaic cells for lighting. Any cost savings will reduce koha required from visitors to keep the marae functioning. It is envisaged that excess electricity generated could be sold into the national grid, but this is subject to constraints set by electricity transmission companies. This project is considered as the flagship for a commitment to sustainability and community values in Waitakere City: 

Māori are a people in evolution and their future is exciting. That’s why the proposed marae at Te Atatu is so important. It is a place for the future, for the whole Te Atatu community. Te Atatu marae will be the third urban marae in Waitakere City and it will build on the success of the first, Hoani Waititi, which now has an international reputation. Just as Te Atatu is the place of the new dawn, so this marae will also be a new dawn. 

(Mayor Bob Harvey) 


Sustainable Infrastructure Planning 

Land use and infrastructure investigations for the northern strategic growth area of Waitakere City Council (NORSGA) have been conducted on the basis of sustainable integrated planning (Shaw et al, 2004). This reflects the reality that land use and infrastructure planning each affect the other. Previously each had proceeded in isolation, resulting in development that meets short-term objectives but fails to meet the long-term economic, environmental and social needs of the local area and the city as a whole. The investigation incorporated options development, water balance modelling, contaminant load modelling, life cycle analysis and a quadruple bottom line decision making matrix to determine long-term environmental, social, economic and cultural effects. 

In their assessment of sustainable techniques for the provision of infrastructure to a 750 ha urban development in Papamoa East, MWH consultants used both a modified Hellström model and the mauri model to assess sustainability. From over 100 options a short list of 43 was chosen as most suitable by allocating low, medium or high to each based on sustainability criteria. From this shortlist, 6 scenarios were identified in association with CSIRO, Kepa Morgan of Mahi Maioro Professionals, Tauranga City Council and iwi representatives (Table 11): 

Table 11: Scenarios for Infrastructure to Papamoa East (MWH, 2004a) 


Scenario 1


·         status quo for urban development



Scenario 2


·         compulsory water-saving devices

·         neighbourhood soakage of stormwater where individual not available



Scenario 3


·         ban on some water uses such as washing cars on driveways

·         tiered rate structure for household wastewater disposal options

·         stormwater treatment in wetlands



Scenario 4a


·         on-site rainwater tanks

·         dry composting toilets

·         neighbourhood car wash

·         on-site greywater disposal



Scenario 4b


·         on-site rainwater tanks

·         dry composting toilets

·         neighbourhood car wash

·         off-site greywater disposal



Scenario 4c


·         on-site rainwater tanks

·         dry composting toilets

·         neighbourhood car wash

·         50/50 on-site and off-site greywater disposal



Options were scored using the Hellström model with additional criteria for Māori cultural values (which were assessed by an iwi representative), and also using the mauri model. Each scenario was also assessed using water and contaminant balance calculations, and 50 year whole life costs were determined. Comparing comments from Morgan (2004a) and the MWH report on the study (MWH, 2004a) it can be seen that there was agreement between the models in some cases, but completely contradictory viewpoints in a number of areas (Table 12): 

Table 12: Comparison of Sustainability Models for Papamoa East 





Model Comparison




Stormwater Infrastructure



·         general agreement


·         reticulation of stormwater and disposal to water bodies ranked lower in MM[1]



Water Reduction Features


·         general agreement


·         use of any source of water for flushing toilets scored low by MM



Wastewater Infrastructure


·         wide divergence


·         reticulated wastewater scored 73% MH but 22.5% MM

·         composting toilets and on-site greywater disposal scored 32% MH and 90% MM





·         reasonable alignment between the two models


·         main disagreements concerning disposal of waste to water bodies



Preferred Scenario


·         both models identified Scenario 3 as overall preferred option




Both models found Scenario 3 to be the preferred option (MWH, 2004a). This is due largely to the absence of stormwater reticulation in this scenario. The disposal of contaminated stormwater to water bodies is offensive to Māori, and scored low using the mauri model. The practice of reticulating and concentrating stormwater before disposal to water bodies interferes significantly with the receiving environment during standard conditions and has catastrophic impacts in flood events (Morgan, 2004a). The use of wetlands to treat stormwater in Scenario 3 will reduce concentration of stormwater, remove contaminants such as heavy metals and improve the aesthetics of the development. This contributed to both models identifying this option as the most sustainable overall.  

The mauri model rated dry composting toilets and on-site greywater disposal highly, whereas scores developed using the modified Hellström model did not. In general, the mauri model rates all reticulated systems lower, in particular the traditional pipe-in, pipe-out approaches. While the MWH assessment scored reticulation highly, it is interesting to note that in the original paper by Hellström et al (2000) a theoretical pipeless city is proposed as a possible vision for a future sustainable urban structure. [DRM1]It is therefore difficult to see how a pipeless system could be considered as unsustainable by the Hellström criteria. This may reflect the fact that criteria were ranked only in terms of the development at Papamoa East, without considering the overall, holistic point of view. In this respect, the mauri model was more able to provide an indication of true sustainability. The Medical Officer of Health (MOH) raised the following concerns regarding the use of DCTs in a high density urban environment: 

·        potential odour

·        lack of maintenance

·        disposal of compost

·        Building Act requires 3 m separation from house

·        greywater treatment required before disposal or irrigation

·        insufficient land for greywater disposal 

These comments from the MOH had significant consequences for scoring of criteria. Under the modified Hellström model, scores for cultural acceptability were calculated to be directly opposite those for human health. In other words, the more acceptable a solution was to Māori, the more likely it was to negatively affect the health of residents. The same problem was encountered when comparing results derived from the two models. The four levels of the mauri model are analogous to an analysis using environmental, social, economic and cultural categories. The modified Hellström model used a separate category for human health that had no direct comparison in the mauri model. This led to the results being somewhat skewed, as it appeared that the mauri model did not consider human health to be a priority, despite the fact that its entire basis is spiritual and physical well-being. 

Referring to the previous discussion of DCTs it can be seen that some of the perceived problems raised by the MOH could be avoided, remedied or mitigated. Providing that aerobic conditions are maintained, DCTs actually produce less odours than conventional flushing toilets. If disposal of composted material was carried out by a licensed waste removal contractor, there would be no public risk involved. Several manufacturers of conventional OWTS provide service for their products, and it is not unreasonable to assume that a similar arrangement could be made with DCT manufacturers. Concerns over odour, lack of maintenance and available land area are also applicable to conventional on-site wastewater treatment systems. The availability of land for greywater disposal following treatment is dependent on lot size[DRM2] and environmental factors. Greywater treatment would be a function of cost only, as discussed below. Although it is believed that separation of DCTs is required by the Building Act, the possibility that a local authority could expressly allow them with a rule in a regional or district plan was not investigated.  

In summary, the three main factors that caused Māori cultural values to be perceived as contravening public health concerns regarding DCTs and on-site greywater disposal seem to have been: 

·        no investigation of potential benefits of DCTs and on-site greywater disposal

·        negative public health effects in the modified Hellström model outweighing overall positive benefits of resource sustainability and environmental protection

·        public health concerns not explicitly addressed in the application of the mauri model 

The main barrier against DCTs in this case is a perceived lack of available land for on-site greywater treatment and disposal, and lack of available sewer for off-site disposal. Land required for greywater disposal could be reduced through greywater recycling. It is not known whether this possibility was investigated further. The resulting requirement for greywater reticulation meant that for a small increase in cost, blackwater would also be reticulated. This meant that DCTs in comparison were not economically feasible. The potential cost savings in the use of DCTs were not realised in the case of this project, due to water being relatively plentiful and inexpensive. 

GHD (2003) came to similar conclusions regarding the provision of DCTs with greywater treatment and disposal. This option is economically feasible where on-site disposal of greywater is possible. Where the capacity of an existing wastewater system is limited, there could also be cost savings associated with DCTs if they prevented the need for a costly upgrade. Cost advantages of DCTs increase where the cost of water is high. Similarly to Mahi Maioro Professionals, GHD concluded that the environmental and social advantages of composting toilets were potentially the more significant feature. 

Overall, the exercise proved that in some instances there was agreement between the modified Hellström model and the mauri model. But there seemed to be a lack of serious consideration given to the scenarios put forward by Mahi Maioro Professionals (MMP) regarding DCTs and on-site greywater disposal. In several instances throughout the report produced, these concepts were rejected outright, with only superficial investigation into their feasibility. Differences in interpretations or scores against criteria on the part of MMP were in some cases referred to as mistakes, and there was some resistance to the fact that MMP preferred to subdivide certain options into components where it was deemed that part of the option was acceptable to Māori and part offensive. The feeling one gets from reading the report is that cultural criteria and the use of the mauri model were tacked on for the sake of appearances and public relations, and were separate to the rest of the exercise rather than being a functional part of it.  

The use of both models for sustainability was a worthwhile exercise, but this project highlights areas where there is a definite need for improvement in providing infrastructure that will meet the needs of Māori and the requirements of Western science. If Māori wish to promote DCTs as an acceptable option for infrastructure, research into the performance and overall benefits associated with their use will be necessary to provide proof in terms of Western scientific requirements. If the modified Hellström model and the mauri model are both to be used for the assessment of sustainability, work needs to be done on refining each so that they are more complementary. The allowances that the mauri model makes for human health must be made explicitly obvious to those operating from the standpoint of Western science. In return, the Hellström criteria must be applied with a holistic view of long-term sustainability in mind, as was the intention of its developers. 

Consultation and Partnerships 

Preceding sections briefly described the resource consent application and consultation process, and concerns that Māori have had over how this has transpired in the past. At times, the consultation process has been frustrating or condescending. Taylor (1984) related a series of embarrassing or humiliating early experiences with the legal system. However, he also stressed the need to be involved with the consultative process, to ensure that Māori needs are met and to be able to inform Pākehā of Māori cultural values. In terms of natural resources, it is equally important for kaumatua and kuia to inform the younger generations what it was like when they were younger. 

Taylor and Te Ati Awa became involved in the consultative process regarding a proposed ocean outfall at New Plymouth in the latter part of 1977. This 1600 m outfall was to be located off Te Ati Awa land at Puketapu, adjacent to the New Plymouth airport, and there were grave concerns about threats to kai moana. Although the process was a difficult one, eventually Te Ati Awa succeeded in having the proposal changed from an ocean outfall to a treatment plant that partially recycled wastewater for horticulture or farming. This shows the importance of Tangata Whenua getting involved in the process. Especially since the assumption made by local authorities is that if you are not there, you must be happy with the proposal. Effective partnerships between Tangata Whenua and local government can lead not only to beneficial outcomes for Māori, but also to a more acceptable solution overall, as illustrated in some of the following case studies. 

In November 2002, construction work on State Highway 1 near Meremere was halted when Ngāti Naho informed Transit New Zealand they were encroaching on the swamp of Karu Tahi, a one-eyed taniwha. The swamp lair of Karu Tahi is located in a small area about 1 km south of the Meremere power station beside State Highway 1, surrounded by a grove of protected kahikatea trees. He resides here for 6 months of the year, and has another home elsewhere on the Waikato. The nation was astounded as the safety improvement project was stalled over something that was generally felt to be ridiculous. The dominant perception was that Māori were standing in the way of progress, and no doubt expecting a payout. 

Discussions between Ngāti Naho and Transit resulted in a compromise solution without any difficulty. The embankment was steepened off with the addition of a 30 metre rockfill, and drainage redirected to ensure that 90 % of the site was retained. Transit spent an extra $15,000-$20,000 to protect a site with significant environmental and cultural qualities. This is indicative of an increasing willingness on the part of government to take into account Māori cultural and spiritual values, which is crucial to fostering a harmonious relationship between the two Treaty partners. The total cost of the project was $75 million, meaning that the additional cost represented only a 0.027 % increase. No payment was given to, or expected by Ngāti Naho. 

The over-harvesting of shellfish at Karekare using such methods as stripping rocks with heavy wires was causing concern to local residents. Waitakere City Council, which does not have authority to regulate shellfish gathering, approached Te Kawerau a Maki to ask what could be done in their capacity as kaitiakitanga. Te Kawerau a Maki were concerned that previous attempts to regulate shellfishing in their role as kaitiaki had been ignored by the Ministry of Fisheries and the public. Acting as liaison, Waitakere City Council were able to obtain the cooperation of all parties in imposing a ban on shellfish gathering beginning in 1993, to allow the resource to recover. The opportunity for Te Kawerau a Maki to have their exercise of kaitiakitanga backed up by the legal system, with local officers able to impose fines, was an important step in management of the resource.  

The traditional dawn ceremony initiating rahui on the resource was performed with around 150 people present. At the same time, the Minister of Fisheries imposed a ban on the taking of shellfish at Karekare. Waitakere City Council provided signs stating the ban was in place, and printed explanatory leaflets in several languages.  

The shellfish of the beach have recovered significantly. During the first year of the rahui, a number of people were observed breaking it. All of them responded positively to an explanation about why they should return the shellfish they had collected to the sea. Nobody has been officially charged or fined, and in recent years nobody has been observed infringing the rahui. Visitors to the area now seem to know about and understand the rahui, and many of them make a point of visiting the rocks to observe the fascinating marine life that is reappearing there. 

(Waitakere City Council) 

A largely combined wastewater and stormwater network in Wanganui has in the past resulted in overflows of untreated sewage to the Whanganui River during heavy rain events. Currently there is a major programme of works underway to separate stormwater throughout the city, including all households. Over half of the city has been separated to date, with final completion in 2010. Wastewater treatment and disposal is another area of concern, however. Currently all wastewater is milliscreened to remove solid material, and subsequently discharged to a 1000 m ocean outfall. MWH consultants were commissioned by the Wanganui District Council (WDC) to design and build a wastewater treatment plant, which will be located near the airport on a site not regarded as culturally sensitive by Tangata Whenua. Construction is set to begin in 2006, with the treatment plant operating and meeting new resource consent requirements for effluent quality by 2007.


MWH initially provided 34 possible options for selection by a Wastewater Treatment Working Group consisting of WDC, Tupoho and Ngāti Apa iwi representatives, and the chairman of interest group Friends of the Shoreline. The selection process for the Wanganui wastewater treatment plant (which took place over the course of several years, mainly from 2001 to 2003) was from the outset a partnership between council and iwi. Tupoho and Ngati Apa represent a significant section of the Wanganui community and were willing and motivated to be involved in the selection process (Taylor, prs com).


The 11 most suitable options were chosen for scoring with multi-criteria analysis. With technical input from MWH and NIWA (the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric research), the Working Group used multi-criteria analysis to select the most suitable treatment plant option. In scoring the various options, 23 outcome success criteria were chosen under the four sustainability headings of environmental, social, economic and cultural, with a weighting out of 10 given to each depending on its importance. The criteria included the health of ecosystems, aesthetic concerns at beaches, minimising resource use, maximising reuse potential and community involvement. The cultural outcome success criteria used and the weightings applied are given in Table 13 :


Table 13: Cultural Criteria for Treatment Plant Selection (MWH, 2002)



Outcome Success Criteria





No restrictions on food gathering from the area zoned PPH by the Regional Council





The area of water where there are any restrictions on food gathering should be as small as possible





Sludge disposal practices respect the environment and maximise reuse





Natural processes are utilised and energy requirements are kept low





All components, and all effects of the plant are sensitive to areas of cultural significance and particularly food gathering areas





Opportunity should be taken to establish wetlands to replace areas drained for development






A reference case was chosen, for which a score from 0-10 was given under each of the outcome success criteria (0 meaning the criteria was not satisfied at all, 10 meaning the criteria was completely satisfied). Other options were scored relative to this reference case (e.g. does the option give higher quality effluent than the reference case, does it cost more). The result was a score for each option, with the preferred option having the highest score. Results were analysed using four methods (e.g. weightings to account for the different numbers of criteria under each category) to ensure that the final result was statistically robust. Notes were also taken during the multi-criteria analysis workshop to identify any factor which would have affected the outcome (none were identified).


It is interesting to note that the preferred order of treatment options in the cultural category matched the overall preferences. Cultural scores were aligned closely with environmental scores, due to the decreased risks to food gathering areas involved with the preferred options. The final option will still involve the discharge of treated effluent to the ocean, but was identified as the most suitable overall by the working group which included iwi with mana moana in the affected area.


In addition to selection of the treatment process to be used, iwi have been able to contribute by suggesting the final shape of the aerated pond and settling pond to be used. The original design called for rectangular ponds, but through the working group it was suggested that a more natural shape that suited the surrounding area would be preferable. The proposed design for the ponds is now basically that shown in plan view in Figure 11:


Figure 11: Plan View of Proposed Pond Layout[DRM3]




This shape largely follows the natural contours of the site. As such, less earthworks will be required and construction costs have decreased. From the design point of view, the proposed configuration should work well, and would offer simplicity and cost savings (Stewart, prs com). There will also be opportunities for the working group to have input in deciding which species will be planted around the site. Overall, the partnership between Wanganui District Council and iwi expressed in the Wastewater Treatment Working Group has allowed on the part of iwi:


·        the exercise of control

·        the transmission of worldviews

·        participation in decision-making

·        the delivery of multiple benefits


which were the four key signposts guiding negotiation of the interface between Te Ao Māori and Te Ao Whānui as proposed by Mason Durie. The involvement of iwi has added value to the project, and resulted in a pond configuration which will be cost-effective, simple and aesthetically pleasing. Māori cultural criteria used ranked the possible options in the same order as the environmental criteria used. Although the final project will involve discharge of treated effluent to the ocean, the overall solution is a compromise that achieves the objectives of both Māori and local government.




There are a number of serious environmental challenges facing the world today, such as global climate change, nutrient enrichment of water bodies and over-exploitation of fishing grounds. With the growth of the Māori economy, these challenges must be addressed as Māori are heavily involved in industries that are susceptible to environmental damage. In addition, the protection of the environment and the ability to exercise kaitiakitanga are an important part of Māori cultural identity. The Māori leaders of tomorrow must be aware of their unique relationship with the environment, and of ways in which the long-term sustainability of the environment, society, economy and cultural values can be ensured. It is not enough to simply achieve short-term goals of economic progress.


The Māori worldview makes extensive use of mythology and genealogy. Resources, humans, animals and plant life are descended from the atua who are the children of Ranginui and Papatuanuku. Mauri is the life force that exists in all living beings. The world is composed of spiritual and physical aspects that are intertwined and cannot be separated. Since resources emanate from the atua, they also have spiritual and physical aspects. Kaitiakitanga is a reciprocal arrangement that Tangata Whenua have with resources. Resources are there to be exploited for the benefit of humans, but they must be respected and maintained. There are many dimensions to the exercise of kaitiakitanga, such as manaakitanga, caring for visitors. Māori had and still have a variety of resource management practices including rahui and karakia. Water contains mauri, which is destroyed by the disposal of effluent into water, which as such is highly offensive.


Western science has developed from a fragmented worldview in which scientific thought is separate from spiritual and moral concerns. Damage to the environment and resource scarcity has led to the concept of sustainability being introduced. Sustainability is defined as being able to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the needs of future generations. There is now a recognition that the economy is constrained within our society, which in turn is constrained by the environment. Various measures of sustainability such as triple bottom line reporting have been developed to assess negative impacts on the environment. These are effects-based, and there is concern that they do not adequately address overall sustainability. However, there is an emerging mindset which recognises that we are an integral part of nature, that economic growth is not an end in itself, and that a holistic approach to sustainability must be taken.


Despite a number of fundamental differences, there is an increasing area of common ground between Western and Māori concepts of sustainability. Fundamental differences include a lack of holistic thinking and spirituality in Western science, as well as an attitude that the land is merely a resource to be exploited and that it can be owned. Similarities include providing for future generations, placing limits on resource use, measuring long-term viability and consideration of environmental, societal, economic and cultural well-being.


The Treaty of Waitangi (1840), Resource Management Act (1991) and Local Government Act (2002) have created a framework in which government and Tangata Whenua act in partnership to manage resources. Sustainability principles and Māori cultural values are embodied in the legislation, and there is a legal requirement for Tangata Whenua to be consulted on significant issues of resource use or environmental impact. There have however been many cases where consultation has been added on after decisions have already been made. Māori also have concerns when consultation is condescending, when it is expected that they consider only environmental or cultural values rather than economic well-being, when there is a lack of regard for Māori cultural values, and when highly offensive practices are continued.


It is necessary for Māori leaders to negotiate the interface between Te Ao Māori and Te Ao Whānui, so that Māori can be citizens of the world while still retaining cultural identity. The four signposts to guide this negotiation are the exercise of control, the transmission of worldviews, participation in decision-making and the delivery of multiple benefits. A tool known as the mauri model has been developed alongside Western sustainability principles to facilitate decision-making that meets the objectives of Māori and Western science. When used alongside a modified Hellström model for sustainability, it was found that there was general agreement, except in the area of disposing human effluent to water.


Dry composting toilets have been proposed as a technology that is acceptable to Māori and also has a sound basis in Western sustainability principles. Barriers to their widespread use are largely perception issues, but there are also real concerns over public health. Research into their performance and benefits associated with their use is necessary. Partial funding of such studies should be seriously considered by iwi authorities. A number of other case studies were investigated that strive to meet the objectives of Māori and Western science. The new LandCare building at Tamaki incorporates dry composting toilets, on-site stormwater disposal, rainwater harvesting and efficient use of energy. The proposed Te Atatu marae at Harbourview-Orangihina will incorporate turf roofs, stormwater collection and reuse, on-site wastewater treatment and irrigation and solar energy. Proposed developments in the Northern Strategic Growth Area of Waitakere City, and at Papamoa East have been planned in an integrated manner with sustainability in mind. Consultation with iwi has resulted in protection of the home of taniwha Karu Tahi, and also led to the Minister of Fisheries providing legal muscle to a rahui imposed at Karekare. Finally, the most suitable option for the Wanganui wastewater treatment plant was determined through a partnership between Wanganui District Council, Tupoho and Ngati Apa. The involvement of iwi representatives led to the adoption of a natural rather than rectangular pond design, leading to cost savings as well as enhancing aesthetics.


The case studies emphasise the fact that there is a definite interface between Western and Māori concepts of sustainability. The current legislative framework enables, and in fact requires, Tangata Whenua and local government to form partnerships in the management of resources for mutual benefit, to ensure the sustainability of the environment, society, economy and cultural values. It is up to the Māori leaders of today and tomorrow to move this process forward to ensure that Māori cultural values are protected and enhanced. There is still a significant amount of progress to be made, particularly in the use of water to transport human waste. The mauri of all major waterways in Aotearoa has been seriously diminished, to the detriment of society at large. A worldview in which all beings are interconnected, with humans descended from the land, as well as collaboration with world leaders in Western sustainability science, of which New Zealand has several, should enable Māori to become world leaders in sustainability.



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[1] MM = mauri model. MH = modified Hellström model.

 [DRM1]insert as a quote.

 [DRM2]check TP58

 [DRM3]new pic from Steve.

 [DRM4]check title.

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