Lorraine Dixon talks about the relationship between the river (awa) and the people (iwi). She explains the spiritual aspect of the river and the importance of its connections with future generations. She also outlines some of the issues iwi have encountered when there are conflicting values between cultures.
We still see our awa as a spiritual being. We see our awa being our identity, our connection to the future generations, but with the paradigm shift of the Pākehā perspective, they saw our awa as a source for water, and then they saw our awa as a sewer, and then they saw our awa as a lifestyle, they now see our awa as an economic investment. So when you have those paradigm shifts occurring with our perspective of how we see our awa, we start having layers and layers of issues. How do we address those issues? It’s just overwhelming.
Agriculture is the largest user for water, although it’s important for economic purposes for this country, but we feel it has reached a critical limit for our awa. In our backyard, we have a power station and mining, and they take vast amounts of water from our awa, and they also discharge vast amounts of water back into the awa.
So you start seeing changes of landscape along our awa and our streams where our awa is now hydrologically controlled rather than it being in its natural state.
You also see the consequences of not having cultural input in today’s world, for example, Whangamarino. You have a highway that’s going straight through there, so the natural filtration that the Whangamarino had with the awa at that point is not functioning very well. We used to talk to the scientists and said, in our kaumātua’s time, they talked about the eels in the wetlands. Scientists say, “But we don’t see the eels in the wetlands.” Why is that? Because you’ve fragmented the wetland from its natural awa. So those are the type of issues that we are coming up with today. We’re hoping that the cultural inclusion and the restoration using the cultural perspective, along with the science we’re both learning together – and they learn from us, we learn from them – and we then, together, we’re both restoring the health and wellbeing of the awa.
The Waikato Tainui College for Research and Development acknowledges the financial support given by the Waikato River Cleanup Trust Fund which is administered by the Waikato River Authority.
The Waikato River Cleanup Trust does not necessarily endorse or support the content of the publication in any way.