Indigenous Environmental Decision Making in New Zealand: Why is the Local Indigenous Group Unable to Make Improvement to their Bay?

By Puti Wilson and Willie Smith.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper shows how environmental decision making is influenced not only by regulations and legislation but by perceptions of the ‘environmental problem’ held by the community and local governance institutions. Interviews with members of a New Zealand indigenous group (a Maori hapu), city council wastewater and water supply representatives was conducted and the findings compared with scientific evidence of the Bay’s condition. In particular, it was found that debates on historical “social injustice” have (and continue to) influence how the hapu make decisions regarding the Bay. This has failed to secure any alleviation of pollution in the Bay. Recent research has focused on the lack of ‘self governance’ that indigenous groups have when making decisions regarding their land. As this paper demonstrates, environmental management is unable to address issues of “hapu land ownership”. Indigenous groups must contribute to the development of decision making frameworks that are conducive to engaging both the local authorities and the social capability of the community. Understanding the social processes which frame decision making is shown to be crucial to ensuring informed decision-making occurs. Indigenous groups in post-settler communities can learn from this study to better develop their social capability to protect the environment.

Keywords: Indigenous Environmental Management, Community Decision Making, Case Studies, Sewage Pollution, Conservation

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp.99-106. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.135MB).

Puti Wilson

Student, School of Geography, Geology and Environmental Science, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

Puti Wilson after completing her under-graduate degree in statistics decided to pursue a career in environmental management and population health. This research formed part of a Masters in Environmental Management. Her main motivation for this being the continual environmental degradation of land her hapu held and that empirical evidence did not sway decision making to conserve or protect Maori land. Puti currently works for the School of Population Health.

Dr. Willie Smith

Associate Professor, School of Geography, Geology and Environmental Science, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

Willie Smith is an Associate Professor in the School of Geography, Geology and Environmental Science at the University of Auckland. He has a background in science and decision making, science policy and the sustainability of agriculture.

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