Morry Black, Mauri Protection Agency: The Ethics of Water

Maori place similar values on water as other sectors of the community … for washing for cleansing, fishing, for recreation, for education, for farming activities, but underlying these is another set of values that are deeply entrenched.

WHAKAPAPA – Mainstream interpret this as genealogy, but whakapapa is a lot more, its about relationships, of how we relate to things in our spiritual and physical worlds, to each other, to the things that help us grow, both physically and spiritually, how we balance it all, the inter-relatedness. Whakapapa is the key that helps us to define our place in the world.

SPIRITUAL VALUES – in order of priority these are paramount. The spiritual realm gives our relationships and interactions with water and the natural world a code of ethics. Positive direction, strength of purpose, depth, a guide towards the right way of doing things. For water management we learn to respect what is right and what we should and should not do.

WATER has its own whakapapa. From the ranges down, where the rains are channeled through the land, then feed into the aquifers. The waters gain a combined spiritual power. Ranginui and Papatuanuku, the rebirth of a physical characteristic from a spiritual origin. And it doesn’t just fall and go splat on the ground. Why is it that rain is so much more energising than the water we get from our taps? Rain from evapouration, the first stage of renewal, cleansing. Culturally significant to us as water passes from one spiritual realm to another. Then as raindrops come down they turn, they spin and get energised with mauri, their life-giving force is enhanced. The power to rejuvenate is obvious in the amount of growth that gets kickstarted by the rain. It’s the latent power within natural processes that imbues water with its life-giving energy.

WHANAUNGATANGA within families and within nature, Water that flows from the maunga to the sea, connecting all that it touches along the way, flowing over and through Papatuanuku, absorbing the natural minerals from the soils, feeding the fauna and flora along the way, from the realm of Tane in the foothills, bringing the tannins and the colours and the flavours of the whenua, the seeds and leaves and pollens and insects of the forests of Tane, feeding into the wairua and the mauri of the river, the whakapapa and whanaungatanga within Te Ao Maori is rejuvenated.

Aligned with this are the connections between our hapu. From the maunga of the Ruahine and the foothills of Wakarara, the rohe of Ngati Marau and Ngai Te Upokoiri, down through Ngai Te Ao and Pouwharekura, Ngai Tahu and Ngai Toroiwaho, the hapu connecting as the streams and rivers connect, shared values but with local interpretations and expression of those values. The two main strands of the Tukituki joining at Tapairu and flowing through Whatui-apiti, Manawakawa and Te Rehunga, then into the lower reaches where Ngati Hawea and Ngati Kautere and their whanau dwell. One river connecting many. Wairuatanga, Whanaungatanga, Whakapapa…Tihei Mauri Ora

Wherever water changes its form naturally, there is potential to derive energy and power, the manifestation of mauri. Estuaries, the clash of fresh water with marine, intertwining, mixing, blending…highly productive ecosystems, incredible amounts of biomass, biodiversity, interaction and flux. We need to protect these places, protect the positives, the taonga that they bestow on us.

Taka Parata a place in my river, a waahi tapu, a rock with significance. Taka Parata, tidal breathing – interaction between the ocean and the river, generating mauri – emanating outwards. This was the extent to which the tidal exchange influenced the waters of the Tukituki. With wetland drainage and earthworks around the river mouth, the energy was dissipated, lost.

TIKANGA – Is practice. Putting our values into practice. Tikanga is derived from the word tika. Again, the right way of doing things. Tikanga includes local application of matauranga (traditional knowledge) within a certain area, practices that have been learnt over the centuries and passed down thru generations, reverence, trial and error to find the best way, seasonal ties to seasonal abundance of species. Physical interaction.

MAURI, the natural energy, from a spiritual base. If you look after the Mauri in water, it will provide positive things. Taonga tuku iho, God-given gifts. The Mauri allows these things to flourish.

So the combination of all of these values contribute to KAITIAKITANGA the Maori environmental management system, based on ethical considerations and respect, reverence, knowledge – So wherever kaitiakitanga over water is involved we need to make ethical decisions.

Morry Black

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1 Comment

  1. Kia ora for that Morry. While tangata whenua 'value' water in line with your views above [ which is the best explanation on the subject I have read] it would seem that river/aquifers extractors [mainly those white fellas] see it has their right to have it for free.

    It seems our recent history of "free for the taking" is still inherent in this country ; especially its land users. So what is the value of water; say for a farm in central Hawkes Bay? I have seen someone comment its the difference between what you could sell the land for without any water rights and what you could get with water rights. If so who actually owns the value of that water?


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