Kaitiakitanga and mana whakahaere are concepts that are central to taking care of the Waikato River.
Kaitiakitanga means guardianship or protection. It includes environmental conservation and sustainability based on a traditional Māori world view, which recognises the connection between the river and people. The purpose of kaitiakitanga is to safeguard the river and its resources for future generations, not just those who are alive today. An example of this might be riparian planting.
Mana whakahaere refers to the authority that Waikato-Tainui and other Waikato River iwi have over the Waikato River based on their connection to the river. Mana whakahaere means that iwi exercise rights and responsibilities to ensure that the wellbeing of the Waikato River is maintained. It is based on the idea that, if people care for the river, the river will continue to sustain the people. Traditionally, mana whakahaere was the exercise of control of the river, including access to and management of the river and its resources. Mana whakahaere is exercised in accordance with tikanga (customary protocols).
For Waikato-Tainui, custodianship and looking after the Waikato River needs both mana whakahaere and kaitiakitanga. Maintenance of the health and wellbeing of the river is in the best interests of all people, not just Waikato-Tainui.
If we are true kaitiaki of this area, then we must have a regard for it. In this area, it is the river that dominates our whole economic base, not just for Tainui but for this region. Every farmer and their farmer needs our river. Probably every major industry in this rohe [region] needs the river, they can’t live without it.Tipa Mahuta
There are many Waikato-Tainui kaumātua who remember the Waikato River in a better state of health.
Leadership by organisations responsible for the health of the Waikato River and a shared sense of responsibility for the river by businesses and communities are important to ensuring that the river is kept healthy for future generations.
This article was written by Jonathan Kilgour, Research and Projects Manager, Waikato-Tainui College for Research and Development.
Copyright: Waikato-Tainui Endowed Colleges Trust.
See the articles in the New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 2018 Special Issue: Mātauranga Māori shaping marine and freshwater futures.