New Zealand Government Acknowledges a River as a Living Entity and a Park as Having Human Rights!

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Tim Lynch

New Zealand Government Acknowledges a River as a Living Entity and a Park as Having Human Rights!

Something is happening in New Zealand that is unprecedented in the Western world today. There is a new understanding of Aotearoa's *Māori relationship to the land -- the whenua. This corresponds to the resurgence of indigenous peoples in South America who are re-establishing their intimacy with the Earth, which is their environment and their world.

In Ecuador and Bolivia, this recognition of their connection to the planet that sustains them has seen the passing of legislation that recognises Nature as a subject rather than an object -- in Bolivia in a legal sense, and in Ecuador as a constitutional statement.

This is very profound and especially heart-warming. When we connect the dots, we realise it is our planet - Mother Earth, *Papatuanuku -- Gaia -- that generously loans us bodies, free air, free water and, until recently, a free food chain.

Our intimate connection to our great sustainer deserves this kind of recognition in law. After decades of judicial, legal, and ethical debates about whether rights should be extended beyond human beings, today it is, at last, a reality.

Though there has been much dialogue about the legal and moral status of Nature --animals, plants,insects and biota in general, plus inanimate aspects of nature, the debate continues. However this new legal description acknowledges that Nature -- known as Pachamama in the Quichua (the Ecuadorian indigenous language) and Aimara (the Bolivian indigenous language), has rights.

In Aotearoa New Zealand another, and similar, set of circumstances has been requested by indigenous Māori. This has been a very long process.

Based on the Waitangi Tribunal, which was set up in 1975 to air grievances and violations since the 1840 signing of a Treaty between the British Crown and Māori chiefs, the opportunity has finally been offered to Māori - iwi, (tribes) hapu, (sub tribes) to redress historical claims, and recognise the journey of our awa (rivers). Waikato iwi lodged their claim to the tribunal in 1987; Whanganui lodged their claim in 1990. Tūwharetoa got the Crown to vest Lake Taupo to them in 1992, and then we had a claims process. It is all interconnected.

Yet in another region of Te Ika O Maui - (The Fish of Maui -- the North Island of New Zealand) another equally profound land action took place in 2014.

The area known as Te Urewera, covering an area of approximately 2,127 km², that had been confiscated from the Tuhoe iwi (tribe), was returned to them in the Te Urewera Act on July 27, 2014. This granting of legal identity to Te Urewera vests the Te Urewera land as a legal entity that has all the rights, powers, duties, and liabilities of a legal person.

Due to its geographical isolation, Te Urewera was one of the last regions to be claimed by the British during colonisation in the 19th century.

This recent ‘returning’ was as a result of a long past action when the colonial British ‘unlawfully’ took possession of this large well watered and forested area and, realising that it was not legal, the NZ government have returned it in the form of a park, but with legal standing and being administered by the Tuhoe tribe or iwi.

Yet many people in NZ only learnt about this event via the alternative press overseas stating:

“New Zealand Grants Human Rights to a Former National Park.” This was news to most New Zealanders!

In an equally stunning event the NZ Government has now set in motion of giving legal status to a river system, that would by law describe it as “a living entity.” This vast river or awa, having a catchment area of 7,308 km2.

Both these two claims by Māori are unprecedented, for they both bring into focus, Māori understanding that we live on a being and that Mother Earth or Papatuanku is what Māori call - her.

In conclusion, this landmark New Zealand legislation brings about sovereignty to a river and its tributaries. It is recognised as an interconnected entity, actually an extension of Papatuanuku, Mother Earth. It is a metaphysical acknowledgement that we are part of a greater whole that nurtures and nourishes everyone. The elements of this system are one continuous everlasting flow that we humans can draw sustenance from, and at the same time, venerate and be thankful.

This idea is not new. Ancient Greece had an understanding some 2,500 years ago when they in their cosmologies introduced the notion of 'Mother Earth' and named her Gaia. From her all things issued. Delphi, for example, was known as the navel of the great mother.

In the 1970s when James Lovelock presented his hypothesis that our planet is a colossal living super-organism, it shook the foundations of Western science. At the time, science considered our planet basically a volcanic rock, with life forms somehow clinging to it. Lovelock's Gaia Hypothesis became a theory in the mid-Nineties as research progressed and more geophysical data was collected. By extension, as we become more conscious of our connection to the living planet, we may realise that our galaxy is quite possibly one vast living organism.

The most recent understanding of a whole living system was brought to the global community by way of James Cameron’s 2010 blockbuster movie Avatar.

In the film, the moon Pandora had a mystical presence -- Ewa -- to which the indigenous inhabitants, the Na’vi, could attune. All the vegetation was connected by a neural network of tree roots that interwove under the surface of the ground. The Na’vi could attach part of their hair to this and tap into a greater knowing -- with the essence of both animals or trees. They were all linked into one indivisible unified field.

This is what Māori instinctively know - that they are connected to both the wairua (spirit) and the mauri (life principle, vital essence, special nature - essential quality and vitality of a being or entity)and the hidden presence of Papatuanku -- Mother Earth.

*Aotearoa the original name Maori gave to New Zealand.

There are 2 versions:

• Land of the long white cloud

 Land of the lingering light. 

Please find below the recent moves in the NZ Parliament where politicians from all parties spoke to this new legislation about the Whanganui river in glowing terms of connection and fulfillment.

Acknowledgment by Law of a New Zealand River being classed as an Entity.

Here is the current situation taken from NZ Government Parliamentary Records. Authorised te reo (the language) text by the Hansard Office. (Hansard is the official report of debate in the NZ Parliamentary House of Representatives.)

In this abridged official narrative below there are numerous expressions of excitement and fulfillment from Māori Members of Parliament speaking to this legislation, from across many political parties.

Their expectations of what this legislation would do, praises all involved for recognising that this river, was/is the life-blood of both the tribes and the localised area and their near on poetic oratory conveys the message of their inheritance - that they are deeply embedded in their connection to the land and mother earth - Papatuanku.

On the 24 May 2016 heralded the passing through NZ’s Parliament of the First Reading by Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Government Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations): where he moved; That the Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Bill be now read a first time.

He nominated the Māori Affairs Committee to consider the bill. Stating this is a truly historic day, after all these years, this House will debate Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Bill for the first time. He warmly welcomed to Parliament all representatives of Whanganui iwi. (tribes). Who were in Parliament 2 years previously to initial the deed of settlement, and now their common goal of bringing recognition to the great Whanganui River has brought them back to Parliament again.

He addressed the bill as having both novel and exciting aspects. The river being recognised in law as Te Awa Tupua, (The river be strange, supernatural, abnormal) - an indivisible and living whole, from the mountains to the sea, incorporating its tributaries and all its physical and metaphysical elements. The Crown (NZ Government) no longer owning the riverbed but the Crown still having a role to play, and having developed this concept of the role of Te Pou Tupua, (establish, appoint, anoint - support a cause or a territorial symbol, such as a mountain or landmark) where both the Crown and iwi appointed two guardians, and that they will be the face of Te Awa Tupua and will symbolise the partnership through the Treaty.

Here are Māori MPs speaking to this and sharing their unique perspective.

ADRIAN RURAWHE (Labour—Te Tai Hauāuru):

I acknowledge every single one of the negotiators for their tenacity in transferring the understanding, the knowledge, and the mauri (the life force or essence of the emotions) of the awa into a bill that fairly reflects the way that we feel about the awa. It could not have been an easy journey. I can only imagine from my experience the battles that went on behind the closed doors to bring this to fruition so that it can come here to this House—this House that decides laws and brings new laws and settlement bills like this into law.

Not that we ever needed a law for the Te Awa Tupua. Te Awa Tupua is ingrained in our hearts and in our minds. I think that this piece of legislation, with its framework that has a human face for our awa, is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the health and well-being of Te Awa o Whanganui—Te Awa Tupua—is able to be maintained, not so much for us here today but for future generations.

MARAMA FOX (Co-Leader—Māori Party):

Today I want us to remember and to reflect and to refresh our thoughts with those who have the care, the protection, the management, and the use of the Whanganui River in accordance with the kawa (customs and procedures) and tikanga (the Māori way of doing things) maintained by the descendants of Ruatipua, Paerangi, and Haunui-ā-Pāpārangi. Te Kuia Peeti was one of the many who recalled the river of their childhood at Kaiwhaiki. She said she could swim before she could walk: “From morning to night we would swim and learn about ourselves and surrounding environment. As youngsters, our bodies were developed in the water. Limbs were stretched and pulled. We learnt fleetness of body and mind. … The river was our playground.” The people of the river told the tribunal that the teardrops of Ranginui (Sky Father) are the source of their being, the artery of their one heart: “The awa is a healer, a kāpata kai, (food cupboard) a highway, and a protector. It is the rope that binds all the whānau (family) together from the mountain to the sea:

The plaited rope of their tipuna (ancestor) - Hinengakau. The kōrero (talk) was consistent: the river is the beginning; it ties the people together like the umbilical cord of the unborn child.

Matiu Mareikura explained to the tribunal: “The river is ultimately our mana, (prestige, authority, control, power, influence, status, spiritual power, charisma - mana is a supernatural force in a person, place or object.) our tapu, (sacred) our ihi, (personal magnetism - psychic force) our wehi, (something awesome) all these things make up what the river means to us. It is our life cord, not just because it is water—but because it is sacred water to us.”

“Our people go to the river to cleanse themselves, they go to the river to pray, and they go to the river to wash. They go to the river for everything [for everything] leads back to the river. And the river, in return, suffices all our needs.” 

I have taken this time to traverse the power of the tupuna awa Whanganui because it is at the heart of this bill. In doing so we honour the generations of inequities, of enquiries, of petitions, and of court cases dating back to 1873; those who brought their awa tupua into this Parliamentary House.

After the hearings at the marae (courtyard - the open area in front of the wharenui, (meeting house, where formal greetings and discussions take place) up and down the river in 1998, the tribunal declared, on page 385 of their report—you can look it up—“Contrary to some popular opinions New Zealand was not colonised on the basis that rivers were publicly owned. The right of ownership was based on universal principles of law, principles guaranteed in the Treaty of Waitangi.”

I know my time is running short, so I am going to cut straight to the words of Te Kuia Peeti: “To my sorrow my own children and mokopuna (grand children) have not grown up in this environment, but what we had as children is no longer there. What we thought was unchangeable and immutable, the river, has undergone changes which we never dreamt of. Our beautiful safe swimming places have all gone. Because so much of the water was taken away, and therefore it made it inhospitable for the fish life to live, it was not uncommon for us to see dead fish floating down the river. Where once stood strong trees all along the river, we now have very serious erosions on our bank.”

“Where once the birds were plentiful and we could recognise their cries, or squawks, we hardly see them at all now. Where once we had crystal clear water flowing up and down our marae, this is now a very rare occurrence.”

And I finish with this, her words. “In fact, the river is filthy dirty most all of the time, that is our friend, tupuna,(ancestors) our whanau, (family)has been desecrated by bad farming practices. Where once we had a healthy waterway, we now have a sick river …”. What you have returned to you is not what was taken, but I acknowledge the strength of your people to restore it in its own entity.

KELVIN DAVIS (Labour—Te Tai Tokerau): Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker.

This bill declares that Te Awa Tupua “is an indivisible and living whole [and comprises] the Whanganui River from the mountains to the sea, incorporating all its physical and metaphysical elements.”, and is a legal person with “all the rights, powers, duties, and liabilities of a legal person.” Two things sprang to mind when I read that. First of all, what on earth does metaphysical mean?

The second issue that sprang to mind was that it is about time—I think this is the third time, but it is about time and it needs to happen more—that the Māori world view is basically legitimised in legislation. To say that we are talking about a person, incorporating all their physical and metaphysical elements, when talking about a river, just as we have spoken in this House about Te Urewera having similar mana—Te Awa o Waikato has similar mana. It is about time that this House started recognising and legitimising the Māori world view.

We will all remember the time when they were building a road somewhere up north and the local hapū (tribe) said “Oh, there’s a taniwha ( mythical being water spirit, monster, dangerous water creature, powerful creature) there. Be careful.” Māoridom was ridiculed. So we have come a long way since that time when we were ridiculed for actually putting our point of view forward, to the extent now that we are legitimising Māori concepts in law. I can imagine how outside of these walls the country will be going off: “Oh, my gosh! These Māoris—what are they on about now?” Well, if in our Pākehā culture and in our Christian culture we believe someone can walk on water, then we can believe that Te Awa o Whanganui is a person. So it is a beautiful thing. I acknowledge the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations and everyone who put all the effort into getting to this stage.

I just want to read out two paragraphs that struck me from the acknowledgments of the bill. “The Crown acknowledges that through this settlement Whanganui Iwi have sought to bring all the iwi, hapū, and other communities of the Whanganui River together for the common purpose of upholding and protecting the mana of the Whanganui River and its health and well-being for the benefit of future generations and, ultimately, all of New Zealand.” The two words that hit me there were “other communities”—“Whanganui Iwi have sought to bring all the iwi, hapū, and other communities …”. This is not about Māori just wanting again to do stuff for ourselves. This is about New Zealand as a country, including all of our communities.

How can we possibly protect the mana of the river, and its health and well-being, for the benefit of future generations if Māori have got to do it all on our own? This is about bringing businesses into the fold—about farmers, forestry, the Department of Conservation, Forest and Bird, and all the commercial interests and recreational interests. Everybody has a role to play in ensuring the mana, the mauri, and the hauora (health, vigour) of the river. And just on recreational interests, it reminds me of my great-grandfather Uru Davis, who happened to live in Wanganui over a century ago now. I think he even played rugby for Wanganui. He was certainly a rower, and he was part of the Wanganui rowing club. So that is just another little link from myself to the Whanganui River.

Again, I would like to congratulate everybody who was involved in the development of this bill, in particular the recognition of the Māori world view and legislating for it. This is the start. We are looking forward in the Māori Affairs Committee to hearing submissions on this bill, but I do commend it to the House. Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.

METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green): Te Māngai o te Whare, tēnā koe.

As a survivor of the people of Te Awa Tupua, it really is an honour to have this opportunity to rise on behalf of the Green Party to support the first reading of Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Bill.

The great river flows from the mountains to the sea. I am the river and the river is me. This whakataukī (proverb, significant) speaks of Te Awa Tupua as an indivisible and living whole, comprising the river from the mountains to the sea, to its tributaries, and all its physical and metaphysical elements. Our identity as mana whenua (people) of this rohe (boundary, district, region, territory, area) is intrinsically and inextricably connected to our awa, and so in these lines of the whakataukī also lie the history and the spirit of our people. It is because of this rich history of whakapapa (genealogies) and connection to the land and to the water that the significance of this occasion is certainly not lost on me.

This bill gives effect to the deed of settlement, Ruruku Whakatupua, which is the culmination of well over a century of efforts by our people to protect the awa and our kaitiakitanga (guardianship, stewardship, trusteeship, trustee) relationship to it. The challenges for iwi and hapū (sub tribe) to uphold this relationship have been ongoing and massive. In the 1870s and the 1880s they faced regulations that threatened fishing grounds and the economic base, the destruction of pā tuna (eel weir, weir for catching eels) by colonists to make way for gold and coal prospectors, the removal of gravel from the awa to build roads, the clearing of rapids, and the draining of swamps. The removal of gravel has continued over many decades.

But throughout this history of pain, and despite the confiscation and the violence that has been inflicted on the awa, our people have been there at every step of the way doing everything we could to uphold the kaitiaki relationship and to protect the tupuna awa.

As far back as 1888 iwi members were petitioning the Crown (Government) to stop the destruction of the pā tuna (eel weir, weir for catching eels.) In 1895 iwi took a claim to the Supreme Court over customary fishing rights. In response the Government established the Whanganui River Māori Trust Board, a Crown agency that took control of the awa. From the 1930s to the 1980s iwi would continually fight for the recognition of ownership, tikanga ownership, of the river. And often those small victories that were won would lead to larger setbacks. After long and hard work during the 1980s and 1990s to get to a place of negotiation with the Crown, even then the struggle has had to continue. Two proposals for hydroelectric dams, which would have been massively destructive to the mauri of the awa, were stopped because of mana whenua claims and campaigns—Pākaitore ( 79-day Māori occupation of Moutoa Gardens in Whanganui of the 1990s.

In 2001, the same year the terms of negotiation with the Crown was signed, the Environment Court approved a 35-year extension to the resource consent for the diversion of the Whanganui awa headwaters, which had happened 40 years earlier and was to be continued for another 35 years. It has been a continuous battle for our iwi, our people, to protect the river against all of the incursions against it. Through it, of course, our people have endured and so has the river—not in the state that we want it, but it is still there, still thriving, and now under this settlement, hopefully, with a great deal more control for our people over our place. That is something. That really is something.

So I just want to, before I finish—I do not want to speak for too long—acknowledge the importance of the legal status that is afforded the awa in this legislation. Yes, I agree that it is absolutely about time the law caught up with our tikanga. (correct procedure, custom, habit, lore, method, manner, rule, way, code, meaning, plan, practice, convention, protocol)It has been our tikanga for ever that our environment is entitled to its own integrity, is entitled to be protected and restored from damage and injury for its own sake, and that our environment, however we want to describe it, is our ancestor and from where we come, and, therefore, we owe our environment everything—our life, our existence, our future. The law slowly is starting to find ways—clumsy and not perfect by any means, but it is slowly trying to find ways—to understand that core concept.

I guess that for those Pākehā who might find it difficult to understand how we could give legal status to an ecology, to an environment, I ask them to just consider why it is that we have in our law the right for corporations to have legal status as a person. We actually do have, in Pākehā law, something quite similar. A corporation is not a thing. It does not have a separate identity, but it does actually have legal rights like a legal person. A corporation has rights under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, for goodness’ sake. It is just a construction in our own minds about how the law responds to an entity. It is so much more important—so much more important—that we give status for its own sake to the very thing that gives us life, and in Whanganui that is our river. It is a small step forward but a step none the less.

I wish us all the very best for the future of this settlement and for our awa. Kia ora koutou katoa.

PITA PARAONE (NZ First):

Those who carried this kaupapa (topic, policy, matter for discussion, plan, purpose, scheme, proposal, agenda)from last century through to the present time.

Listening to the previous speaker, Metiria Turei, I think she made some telling points when we talk about the river as a living being. She made mention of legislation or the law actually catching up with tikanga. When she said that, I thought of the fisheries settlement—particularly that part surrounding the Kermadecs Island North of NZ. It passed through this House. Everyone was happy because the protection of our fishing rights was ensconced in legislation, and then, over recent weeks, things about the legislation seem to have been forgotten. I think it is incumbent on all of us, those of us who sit in this House, and those of you who have come, sitting in the gallery, to ensure that we never ever see the river lost to us again.

The good thing about this—and I think she was acknowledged—is that the Mayor of Whanganui is in attendance. Given the history between the council and local iwi over recent years, I think it augurs well to know that we have the support of the local body in terms of the future of the river. I just want to acknowledge that and have that placed on the record of Hansard.

When I think about the Whanganui River I recall first hearing the saying “The river is me and I am the river”. I thought that we in Ngāti Hine were the only iwi who subscribed to that notion when we talked about our traditional river, Taumārere-herehere-i-te-riri. I think it was Mr Davis who talked about swimming in the local river and learning more about one another—oh, I think it was the member for the Māori Party. Having been brought up in a place called Mōtatau, I can remember doing the same thing, and when she said about knowing about others, I thought: “Hey, they must have been just like us. We go for a swim, no clothes, and we know what everybody is about.” And those are some of the histories surrounding our rivers—learning about one another in more ways than one, I might add, but also realising how important the river has been to our tūpuna.

As a young person going to Bay of Islands College and learning about Māori history, I can recall seeing photos of tāua (Māori) holding tuna, (eels) and the caption saying that these were on the Whanganui River. Again, I liken the Whanganui River to our traditional river of the hau kāinga, (home people) of Taumārere-herehere-i-te-riri. I welcome this opportunity of contributing to this debate. Kia ora.

NUK KORAKO (National): Representing the Government in power.

To all of you, I know the feeling of coming here, as a son of Kāi Tahu, and to actually be listening to the first reading of your bill. But the really significant thing about this particular one reminds me of when Kāi Tahu were actually doing not the same thing but a little bit of the same process around Aoraki Mauka. (Dual names accepted in for Aoraki-Mt Cook) So what I see here today is the fact that just like us, it was not about us; it was actually about all of New Zealand. I acknowledge you, here, for that.

We have heard so much so far around the bill itself. I would like to concentrate on just one part of it that actually reflects the uniqueness of this actual settlement. The uniqueness of this settlement is in the legal framework for the river, because this is what makes this particular settlement groundbreaking. This recognises Te Awa Tupua, comprising the entire Whanganui River, its tributaries as well, and all its physical and metaphysical elements, as a legal person—as a legal person—and with all of the corresponding rights, duties, and liabilities. The establishment of the river as a legal entity, then it provides the framework for the recognition of the unbreakable connection between the Whanganui iwi and Te Awa Tupua.

The other part of this is to provide human representation for Te Awa Tupua and the position of Te Pou Tupua, which will be established and filled by two people nominated by the Whanganui iwi and also the Crown, which is a really important part of this kotahitaka within this settlement. The Crown-owned bed, of course—the Whanganui River—will be vested in Te Awa Tupua, and a $30 million contested fund will be established to support the health and well-being of Te Awa Tupua. This new legal framework is an innovative use of the Western judicial system to manage the river in a way that is distinctly Māori. That is one of the most unique things of any settlement that has ever come before this House. This settlement allows the Whanganui iwi to take back their responsibility for the river, which should never have left them following the Treaty of Waitangi.

I also want to acknowledge the members of Whanganui iwi who have worked on this settlement but also all of those who have gone before, as we have just heard, and we acknowledge them. As before, for over a century, the people here are uri (offspring, descendant, relative, kin, progeny, blood connection) of those who protected and preserved the river itself and the iwi interest in it.

I want to acknowledge, also, one particular person—we have done a lot of acknowledgments here today and, sure, we have to and we must do. I want to acknowledge the Hon Christopher Finlayson, whose personal involvement in this particular settlement reflects the importance of it. That is not to take away the importance of any other settlement, but particularly this settlement, because this is groundbreaking legislation, is an achievement that I think speaks volumes about the value of having such a distinguished and respected legal mind as our Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations.

To everyone here, your time has come. This is the final beginning of your long journey, and on that note, as the chair of the Māori Affairs Committee, we indeed look forward to this bill coming to the select committee so that we may continue its journey, or shepherd its journey, through to the third reading and the finality of the journey itself, which will happen here and it will be enacted in law. So kia ora to you all.

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Labour—Hauraki-Waikato):

It was in that recollection that I want to, perhaps, share—there has been some talk in the House today about the metaphysical identity and tikanga merging with law and things like that. Actually, to know one’s awa, like you can smell its different fragrances; to know one’s awa when you can witness a change, albeit so subtle; to know one’s awa to the point where you understand something else is happening in our world, but it has been read through the awa—that is what we were able to experience in coming down the Whanganui River.

I think it is a great day today because it has been a long journey for the people of Whanganui to get to this point. It is not without context if we think about the Waitangi Tribunal and the opportunity that has been offered to people to look to redress historical claims, and just the journey of our rivers. Waikato lodged their claim to the tribunal in 1987, Whanganui lodged their claim in 1990, Tūwharetoa got the Crown to vest the lake Taupo to Tūwharetoa in 1992, and then we had a claims process. It is all interconnected.

It is the journey of our waters, I think, that leads us to some very important conversations today. For me, this is quite historic today, because it is happening within the context of very important conversations that this nation is having around the health and well-being of our waterways and the issues of freshwater. I want to acknowledge that because when we talk about the role that Parliament plays, yes, to give effect to the intent of the deed of settlement for the Whanganui River, it is within a context and some broader conversations. I think the Māori Affairs Committee is quite cognisant of that. We will use the opportunity of the submission process to ask questions within context—for example, the resource management legislation going through that is talking about collaborative planning, that is proposing models for collaborative planning, and that does not address issues of fresh water but that impacts potentially on any river settlement that has already been reached. We will ask the types of questions about what is the anticipated connection between what you are seeking to achieve for the awa of Whanganui and what is being proposed. That is to ensure that the intent and the integrity of your settlement can be preserved.

Many people before us have always said that Governments come and go, but, funnily enough, the institutional memory of the iwi stays very determined over a long period of time, and it is a very long institutional memory that keeps any Government accountable. We are mindful of that, too. It is with that view in mind that I think we will be considering very carefully the submissions coming to the select committee. I am hopeful, actually, that we might have a sitting at Tieke (a tiny village on the river). We would actually have to get on a waka (canoe) and then get to Tieke, and then appreciate the fullness of the experience of what is being talked about—

Coming back to Piripi now, on another occasion, after the opportunity with Te Arikinui, I did have the opportunity to join a few tira hoe (canoe journey). My very first tira hoe that that I joined, little did I know—after karakia (prayers) I was assigned my crew mate. It was Piripi. Then one of the whanaunga (relative, relation, kin, blood relation) said to me “Don’t worry, Piripi is the best in the river. You’ll never fall out.”, because I was kind of in a bit of trepidation. Well, I can guarantee you, every ripo, (whirlpool, eddy, curl, deep pool) every curve of that river we fell in. I think I may as well have just swum the Whanganui River. But my gratitude goes to Piripi, because in the great joy of experiencing, you know.

It was nourishing. The fact that we could laugh about it all the way down—and I remained his crew member—was, I think, a testament in itself. But all the people who have gone who lived the river, who enjoyed sharing the river with the next generation, who told stories from their own place of reference, I think are a richness that this settlement will never convey, but we know it is there. I have certainly witnessed that and I want to acknowledge it.

The other thing—eating piharau.( lamprey, eel-like fish) Was that legal then? We ate piharau. I had never tasted piharau before, and I am from people where we have lots of eels, but I have never tasted such a beautiful delicacy ever in my life. That taste has remained with me, right to this day. Every time I hear that word “piharau”, oh boy, everything starts coming back.

The other thing—when you are going along the river and you see how the canoes got through and you see the dents in the sides of the river, you know, those are stories that cannot be captured in settlement legislation, but they tell us that long before the British came to New Zealand there was a history well before their time that was long established. I hope that the settlement, in some small way, will contribute to what you have always lived, always believed. You have not lost anything; the legislation just had an impact on you. Even going to a marae where they talked about the health legislation during Māui Pōmare’s time, the Māori Councils Act, “Pire Kiore”, I think they called it, and learning that history, how relevant it was in the physical presence along the river and how you told the story of its context and impact on yourselves—those are the treasures that have stayed with me for life.

With that, I am not going to take up too much time. Can I just leave you with one lasting memory that I will never ever forget. I think I was in my early teens then, coming down the river, but I was always inspired by Nanny Nui, Te Manawanui Pauro. At her age—and I think she was well over 80 at that time; could have been 90—she was still paddling down the Whanganui River. Her love for the river gave her a level of, I think, kind of like a supernatural effervescence about her. Never did she waver, never did she tire. That is the type of sustenance that the next generation can draw on as those types of exemplars, all of them. Nō reira,(accordingly) ki a koutou katoa, tēnā koutou.

- Kia kaha & Aroha

 

This below is the South Americans who are understanding our living planet.
* Source: wikipedia.org

Law of the Rights of Mother Earth.

Law of the Rights of Mother Earth (Spanish: Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra) is a Bolivian law (Law 071 of the Plurinational State), that was passed by Bolivia's Plurinational Legislative Assembly in December 2010. This 10 article law is derived from the first part of a longer draft bill, drafted and released by the Pact of Unity by November 2010.

The law defines Mother Earth as "a collective subject of public interest," and declares both Mother Earth and life-systems (which combine human communities and ecosystems) as titleholders of inherent rights specified in the law. The short law proclaims the creation of the Defensoría de la Madre Tierra a counterpart to the human rights ombudsman office known as the Defensoría del Pueblo, but leaves its structuring and creation to future legislation.

Investing Nature with Rights.

The law defines Mother Earth as "...the dynamic living system formed by the indivisible community of all life systems and living beings whom are interrelated, interdependent, and complementary, which share a common destiny; adding that "Mother Earth is considered sacred in the worldview of Indigenous peoples and nations.

In this approach human beings and their communities are considered a part of mother earth, by being integrated in "Life systems" defined as "...complex and dynamic communities of plants, animals, micro-organisms and other beings in their environment, in which human communities and the rest of nature interact as a functional unit, under the influence of climatic, physiographic and geologic factors, as well as the productive practices and cultural diversity of Bolivians of both genders, and the world views of Indigenous nations and peoples, intercultural communities and the Afro-Bolivians. This definition can be seen as a more inclusive definition of ecosystems because it explicitly includes the social, cultural and economic dimensions of human communities.

The law also establishes the juridical character of Mother Earth as "collective subject of public interest", to ensure the exercise and protection of her rights. By giving Mother Earth a legal personality, it can, through its representatives (humans), bring an action to defend its rights. Additionally, to say that Mother Earth is of public interest represents a major shift from an anthropocentric perspective to a more Earth community based perspective.

So here we are today, with Aotearoa New Zealand Māori leading the way, in tandem with their South American cousins as we acknowledge our great sustainer by legislating to take care of both land and rivers within the biosphere of our planet, mother earth. 

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Tim Lynch

Tim Lynch

Tim Lynch, is a New Zealander, who is fortunate in that he has whakapapa, or a bloodline that connects him to the Aotearoan Maori. He has been involved as an activist for over 40 years - within the ecological, educational, holistic, metaphysical, spiritual & nuclear free movements. He sees the urgency of the full spectrum challenges that are coming to meet us, and is putting his whole life into being an advocate for todays and tomorrows children. 'To Mobilise Consciousness.'