Since the genesis of Ngā Whenua Rāhui in the mid to late 1980s and the appointment of the first Komiti and staff member in 1990, the world in which we live has changed. The competing pressures for the use of Māori land back then were things such as native logging and clearing land for livestock or pine trees. Environmental, social and cultural matters to do with whenua Māori are coming into focus as the nation grapples with real issues such as water quality, indigenous biodiversity, climate change, threatened species and regional development.
As a mechanism of government, we have never been more relevant and play an important part in the overall picture of better environmental management in Aotearoa New Zealand. We are small, with a total appropriation of $6.1m (including $570,000 for the Mātauranga Kura Taiao fund) and 28 kaimahi.
Year on year the number of kawenata and agreements has grown and as at June 2020 we see 281 in place over more than 182,000 hectares of whenua Māori. An achievement in which all those involved can feel a sense of accomplishment. We have set our strategic direction to be more involved alongside landowners, in actively managing those agreements. Growing the involvement and expertise of the landowners to be working on their whenua is an essential progression.
Our foundational document Te Tūāpapa Ahurea, sets the basis for the grounding in the concepts and practice of matters Māori. Of importance is the recognition that people are part of the land and living both with and on the land. We are in a state of change and positive growth.
Special tribute needs to be made of the outstanding contribution of Tā Tumu Te Heuheu, Kevin Prime and Mike Mohi. Tā Tumu and Kevin have been with the Komiti from the beginning and Mike for many years, was the only kaimahi. Their steadfast commitment to both the kaupapa and the mahi has been and continues to be immense. They provide a wonderful example for those who seek to follow them.
These reports are a picture in time of what we have done. As we consider the next few years, working with Māori landowners to protect Papatūānuku needs to continue. Working with others in a collaborative way, especially over the areas of large contiguous forest will ensure we achieve more collectively than we can by ourselves. Looking forward, we have much to do.