Many community conservation projects require a degree of consultation with others.

Many community conservation projects require a degree of consultation with others. Whether or not you’re legally required to consult, the process allows people to have input into your plans and informs them about what’s happening. You may also pick up more supporters as a result. 

On this page:

Two-way communication

Consultation is about listening to others’ concerns, not about telling.

Consulting in good faith involves:

  • Being honest about your plans.
  • Listening to what people say with an open mind and seeking to address concerns.
  • Maintaining ongoing communication.

For more ideas, see working well as a group.

Involve everyone

  • Be inclusive and open. Be aware though that it may be appropriate to start your consultation with key players like tangata whenua or directly affected people before having open community discussions.
  • Go beyond your usual networks – get all partner organisations to help.

Appropriate process and timing

  • Ensure your purpose and intentions for consulting are clear to everyone.
  • Give people enough information to provide you with useful and informed feedback.
  • Allow enough time for people to consider the information.
  • Use techniques appropriate to those you are consulting and allow everyone to have a say.

Evaluation and clear completion

  • Let people know when and how you came to your decisions.
  • Mark the finish in some way.
  • Provide an opportunity for evaluation.

See basic group techniques for more information.

Working with tangata whenua

Effective communication is easier when your own position is clear and you understand the values, beliefs and situation of tangata whenua. The following steps will help you work more effectively with tangata whenua. However, the main thing is to be honest and be prepared to listen and address concerns. Extra preparation is helpful but don’t let it stop you from initiating dialogue.


Review the principles of good consultation. Do some research.

  • Find out about local history. Make discrete enquiries with kaumätua and kuia to find out what has happened to tangata whenua in the past.
  • Are there any outstanding characteristics of the tangata whenua noted and acknowledged by the Māori world at large?

Examine your own assumptions

  • What role do you assume Māori should have as guardians of resources?
  • How do you feel about issues like customary use and the Treaty?
  • How much are you willing to include others in decision-making about your project?

Examine your project proposal

Be clear on the essence of your project, your kaupapa:

  • Think about what you need to say, not what you want to say.
  • Consider why you are passionate about your project and how to communicate this.

Identify benefits and risks

  • Determine why tangata whenua would be interested in the kaupapa and plan your consultation accordingly.
  • Consider the risks your project might pose to tangata whenua – for example, restrictions on resource use and access, sense of loss of rangatiratanga.

Identify relevant Treaty principles

If you are not already familiar with the Treaty, review it – Claudia Orange’s The Treaty of Waitangi is probably available in your local library. Note that many words have a different sense in the Māori and English versions. The Māori version, for example, guaranteed tino rangatiratanga, full absolute power and authority over resources – sometimes translated as selfdetermination. The English version, on the other hand, talks about Māori ceding sovereignty, translated as ‘kāwanatanga’ (governance), an unfamiliar term to Māori. This leads to much debate over how to give effect to the Treaty.

Be aware that while there are only three articles in the Treaty, various people have also identified principles arising from the Treaty. Some include the principle of partnership, working together as equals (Ōritetanga), and the duty to inform (He here kia mōhio).

Plan your presentation

Choose your language carefully:

  • Practise Māori names for places, species and tribal groupings.
  • Ensure you fully understand the sense of Māori words you use. For example, the word ‘kaitiaki’ is often translated as ‘guardians’ but has a specific cultural context so you cannot automatically assume this role applies to you.

Make your presentation relevant:

  • Include visual resources such as photos and posters where possible.
  • Tell a story and use humour where appropriate.
  • Focus on species and values of interest to tangata whenua – for example, those used in toi (traditional craft).
  • Emphasise benefits of the project to tangata whenua and wider community.
  • Identify possible issues and potential solutions.

Plan your agenda but be prepared to change it. A good structure might include:

  • Introductions.
  • Presentation on your project.
  • Responses to the proposal from tangata whenua.
  • Further discussion.
  • Conclusions and agreements on how tangata whenua want to be involved.

Take care in your delivery

‘Our mouths and words are a very powerful tool. Our words are the reflection of the future.’

When you’re presenting information, take care to be:

  • Honest and humble – believe in what you say. People can sense passion and honesty.
  • Aware – people will pick up on body language and know if your heart is in it.

Speak to your audience

I roto i te reo Māori (use of Māori language) is a key tool. Iwi Māori have an emotional and spiritual understanding of words – words are real in the essence (mauri) of the topic. Therefore, bilingual resources can be key tools to ensure:

  • What you say is understood.
  • You demonstrate respect for Māori culture.

This applies equally when speaking to another cultural group. It’s also helpful to use local information to make your presentation more relevant to the audience.


Manage conflict in a group

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