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Tuhoe vision for Te Urewera: ‘it’s about changing the thinking’

Te Urewera’s role is not to deliver room service to tourists, says Te Urewera Board chairman Tamati Kruger.

It was hard to deal with what people felt was their entitlement to nature, he said.

Te Urewera Board has taken over management of the formerly known Te Urewera National Park, which includes Lake Waikaremoana.

The board’s composition is two-thirds Ngai Tuhoe iwi and one-third the Crown (government).

Mr Kruger said people continued to regard nature as property and a resource that existed for their personal benefit.

“And that whoever is in charge of, or managing, that national park or reserve is seen as room service.”

Mr Kruger said claims of right of access, entitlements and how they had seen the Department of Conservation (DoC) in the past was how some of them saw Tuhoe today — “as existing to deliver those rights and those entitlements to them”.

“It has been difficult for them to understand Tuhoe does not have that role. We will not deliver them their entitlements.”

Rather, Tuhoe wanted to talk about everyone’s duty of care and responsibility for Te Urewera.

No one was exempt from a sense of duty and an expectation to do the right thing, he said.

Not what nature can do for us . . . but what we can do for nature

Mr Kruger said he knew New Zealanders identified nature as a large part of who they were.

“There is a recognition that all of us love Te Urewera and nature.”

But nature did not need human beings, said Mr Kruger.

“Rather than dwell and look at our self-interest, our entitlements and expectations from nature, we should be unified in working out what our responsibilities are.”

Mr Kruger said he did not know how long it would take to change behaviour and attitudes towards nature — “probably generations” — but the main thing was they had started.

Te Kawa o Te Urewera, or the Te Urewera Management Plan, adopted last year was that start.

“It’s about changing the thinking.”

The good news was hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders thought it was the right thing to do, too, he said.

“There are many people overseas who have had to live without nature, good clean air and water, who very much admire and envy what you and I are doing here.

“We are the first to say that the land is a person.

“You and I know that this is an age-old idea and notion.”

But for the first time in the world a democratic government agreed with that, he said.

“That is historic on many levels.”

The management plan included decreasing Crown-appointed members on Te Urewera Board from four to three and increasing Tuhoe membership from four to six. This came into effect last year.

Also introduced was “friendship agreements” for people who wanted licences, consultations or concessions to use the wilderness and lake area in Te Urewera.

Friendship agreements aimed to establish an affinity and rapport upon which to build, he said.

“I can consult with you and thank you very much, and hope I don’t see you again until next year, But that’s consultation.

“A friendship agreement does not have a time limit on it because friends can talk to each other at any time that is appropriate.

“It is based on alliance, rapport and affinity, rather than competing for favour, or a landlord-tenant type relationship.”

Friendship agreements pointed to participation and were not a “talk-fest”, he said.

Another example of the Tuhoe approach included pest and weed control.

Mr Kruger said they were interested in new technology and methods of pest or weed control, plus used their own expertise to assess the condition of Te Urewera.

“We understand DoC uses certain species to measure the state of water and ground life within the forest.”

The native ngutu kaka plant and the blue duck were DoC-used barometers, he said.

“Tuhoe uses other species like eels, whitebait and birds.

“So these things are not in competition with each other but these things should be seen as complimentary.

“Te Urewera board and Tuhoe acknowledge that 1080 is something that exists. It has been used around the world and in New Zealand.

“Its cost-effectiveness is rated quite highly and it is regarded as an acceptable form of action in some areas.

“Te Urewera board acknowledges 1080 toxin is an option but we favour trying other things like ground-trapping and new technologies available.

“We may even ourselves have to invest in new technology.

“It’s not about a black and white answer.”