TOWARDS LANDSCAPE AOTEAROA
Neil Challenger (via The Landscape No. 37/38 Autumn/Winter 1988)
Landscape Architects are concerned with change. Not with its initiation but as moderators, facilitators and directors. This is true whether working on broad-scale planning or site specific design. The intent is always the same. To try and ensure that the right changes occur in the right place by the right means. This work is carried out with the support of a philosophical framework which emphasises the values and capability of the land and recognises the human values within its landscapes. This framework is clearly culturally loaded and it is this loading that is currently being put to the test.
The framework has to be adequate, it must encompass the values of all the cultures which make up New Zealand. Not out of a chivalrous intent for fair play (although this in itself is legitimate), but out of a desire to help create truly New Zealand landscapes. It is essential therefore that Maori values are brought into focus alongside those of the Pakeha. It is the intention of this article to participate in this process and to consider its implication on the future development of the New Zealand landscape.
This framework is clearly culturally loaded and it is this loading that is currently being put to the test.
There are about 300,000 Maori in New Zealand. That is, 300,000 people who identify themselves as being Maori and to a greater or lesser extent identify with the Maori culture. Naturally however they do not all hold the same world view nor do they share the same attitude towards land. Instead they hold a plethora of attitudes between them, some traditional and others not so. It is these traditional values which need to be refocused.
The Māori culture is both a response and an expression of the New Zealand landscape. They have grown together into their present form and will grow together into the forms of the future. Land is the basis of the Māori culture. It is not simply a stage for life, it represents the source, the expression and continuance of life itself. Everything is back to the land. It "confers dignity and rank, provides the mana of hospitality, is the resting place of the dead and the heritage of future stability and a source of emotional and spiritual strength." 1 The Māori see themselves as having a direct link with earth. They are its descendants and the gods are their ancestors. All creatures are from this same beginning and everything is imbued with mauri and wairua, a spirited personality which must be maintained. Life is thus a complex web in which everything interacts and at some point unites. " ... you know I have other special feelings. It's for greenstone (pounamu). I know that greenstone represents my land and its mana. I feel personally connected to every pounamu, every mere (hand club) I've seen. I guess it symbolises the land lost, lost but not forgotten. All greenstone comes from Te Wai Pounamu, all greenstone is Te Wai Pounamu, all greenstone is me." 2
The land identifies the people and the people identify with the land. Identity is about knowing where you are from, where you are going and where you are. The land is all of this. It houses the past, provides the present and allows the future. The Māori people have been resident in New Zealand for over a thousand years, in many cases tribes having been associated with the same area for hundreds of years. They have learnt to know the land. In days gone by every hill and river gully and stream, and even rocks and trees were known and revered - burial places, battle fields, villages and cultivations. Although it has diminished, this knowledge lives on, giving Māori landscapes a vibrancy that makes them relevant and significant to the people of today.
Over the centuries countless generations have been buried in the security of mother earth with whom they have become all but synonymous. Indeed, many people consider the land to be their ancestor; their forbears lie in the earth and in time they will lie there also. "The land is the beginning so it is the end and being buried on tribal land is the last expression of sanctity and identity with the ancestors." 3 It makes the circle complete. Out of this are created wāhi tapu - sites sacred by their historic and spiritual association. A product of the wairua and mauri of people and events of the past. Failure to observe the tapu is to injure the wairua and defile the past.
Out of these spiritual and historic links with land comes the status of tangata whenua, the people of the land, and this provides the people with their turangawaewae, their place to stand both as individuals and on a family and tribal basis. It is the place where they belong, their source and their destiny.
Thus far we have described the Māori spiritual and historic relationship with the land, but land is also the primary economic resource, for Māori as much as for anyone else. However, in land use the emphasis is on sustainability. As Aila Taylor has put it:
"The way I look at these remaining resources nga kawa o Taranaki, it is as a person, it is as a living being. It is up to humanity in whatever form that takes to protect it at all times and also to share its bounty. " 4
The emphasis here is on multi-use and sustainability, on maintaining intact the resources physical and spiritual integrity. Land is not owned for today but borrowed from tomorrow. Resources must be maintained and nurtured , they must be used with a care that will protect them from overuse and from damage. Although the customs which in the past ensured this, are not followed as they were, the first produce is still given away, the seasons still dictate when food should be taken and in some cases rahui (closed seasons) are still used.
The Maori attitude to land is thus complex and encompassing, reflecting the important role it plays in Maori culture as the major source and expression of identity, spirituality, social structure and economic resource.
In contrast with Maori attitudes Pakehas are concerned with prospect. Be it economic return or scenic beauty the end point is the same - an advance for mankind. The Pakeha world view is strikingly different from the Maori.
" It divides the world into a series of neat parametric boxes . Relations are adversary conflict, separated by walls of thought, and hard logic overrides the soul. It is not enough for nature to exist, for us. " 5
In this world view we have been strongly influenced by Christianity. God created the earth and created man in his image giving him "dominion over all things ." Not only are people separate from nature but nature is there to enjoy.
Reinforcing this relationship are the principles of humanism. The idea that "men and women can best improve their lives by thinking and acting for themselves and especially by exercising their capacity for reason. 6 This enables the scientific process to rise to the fore crushing intangibles under its mighty weight. It is this that has led to the idea that land is a commodity skin deep to be bought, sold and used.
The common myth is that New Zealand is a country of sheep farmers and cow cockies. Idyllic imagery, but it neither represents the New Zealand of today nor that of the early Pakeha arrivals. The first Pakeha settlers arrived from a country 80 percent urban and they too often remained town dwellers in New Zealand. Between 1850 and 1853 slightly over a quarter of the immigrants were agricultural workers. Over the years this figure has steadily declined to the point where today no more than 10 percent of the population are employed on the land. Thus few Pakehas have actually had the opportunity to get close to the land and to get to know it.
As a colonial country many people came to New Zealand to get rich . Their interest lay not in the country but in its opportunities and accordingly they often did not stay long . Only one quarter of the 19th century immigrants stayed to die in New Zealand. 8 The rest took what they wanted or certainly what they could, and left.
As a nation, Pakehas have put down shallow roots. Farms are sold every 1O years, houses every seven and there is a seemingly endless drift north wards. Eighty percent of the population is now urbanised. Pakehas are living in an environment where nature is so distant that it comes as a shock to see soil in the trenches dug for road works; where the idea of land management is looking after "quarter of an acre". These are hardly strong bases upon which to build a sensitive sympathetic and knowing relationship with the land.
Pakehas are individuals both in time and space. They do not see themselves as a part of a longer continuity but as isolated units. Naturally, land use reflects this view. Pakehas expect land to provide for the needs of the moment; ownership establishes the right to use and a perceived isolation in time limits concerns for the future. Certainly land is used in a whole range of ways for a wide range of purposes, but seldom in the same place. Rather land is divided in a series of parametric boxes, a system that limits multi-use and frustrates the ideals of integrated land management. It is this that leads to land being divided into bits for use and bits for preservation, the sacred and the profane.
The Pakeha sees the world as a resource put here for their benefit - be that spiritual or physical. They are humanists and concerned with rational land use on parametric lines.
There are considerable differences between Māori and Pakeha perceptions of land. Given that a person's attitude to land is a product of their cumulative cultural past, this is inevitable. Few Pakehas have had the opportunity to form close links with the land. Their history, its length and its character has not allowed it while today Pakehas are so urbanised that they are distanced from the land. Although the Māori population is also largely urban it retains both physical and spiritual ties to the land that sees its significance remain . It is perhaps no coincidence that for Pakehas heaven is skyward while for the Māori their ancestors have become the earth.
To end here would be simplistic. It is important to recognise and accept differences but a deeper accord must be reached. For it is accord which will lead to " Landscape Aotearoa". That is the development of the New Zealand landscape in a way which is a response both to New Zealand and to New Zealanders. There can be no denying power currently rests with the Pakeha and it is largely Pakeha values which find expression in the landscape and in landscape change. Pakehas must extend beyond this however, not only to recognise Maori values but also to recognise New Zealand.
Although Pakeha involvement with New Zealand has lasted little more than 150 years it is still involvement. Their history may be short, but it is still a history from which they gain identity and definition, and this can only grow more significant as time goes on. The same is true of spiritual values which are certainly different from those of the Maori but are none the less present.
Thus it is that there are large numbers of historic sites, cemeteries, churches, trees and occasionally even landscapes which are seen as valuable on account of their historical or spiritual associations. This is supported by the Conservation Act, Wild and Scenic Rivers Legislation and the Town and Country Planning Act to name but three. Admittedly these are largely parametric but they are a response to less tangible values none the less.
Certainly there are differences between Māori and Pakeha but clearly there are similarities. Recognising these and applying them evenly will help lead to accord. In applying this, Māori values must be given the weight they deserve, recognising their relationship as tangata whenua. This applies equally to broad-scale planning and to the smallest detailing. More than this however, the Maori culture should be allowed to make a positive contribution to the landscape.
Auckland is the largest Polynesian city in the world yet nowhere is this reflected either in the general form or the specific motifs of the city. In the absence of the Māori culture "Landscape Aotearoa" will never happen.
Finally Pakehas must look to New Zealand to find themselves; they must develop a more positive response to the country than exists at present. So many activities relating to land are described in terms of conquest rather than partnership. So much inspiration is sought overseas when really the answers must lie in New Zealand. The Māori culture has grown out of New Zealand. Similarly the Pakeha culture must take its lead from New Zealand and in so doing strengthen New Zealand’s identity and the New Zealand landscape.
So in the end perhaps as Te Whiti o Rongomai said, "One day the cat and dog will eat from the same dish."
1. Anderson R. 1983 'Planning for Maori Needs ' Town and Country Planning Division MWD, Auckland
2. Douglas M.K. 1984 'Land and Maori Identity in Contemporary New Zealand ' Centre for Maori Studies and Research , University of Waikato Occasional Paper No 27, Hamilton
3. Douglas M.K. ibid
4. Taylor A in Douglas M.K., 1984, 'Waiora , Waimaori, Waimate , Waitai: Maori Perspectives of Water and the Environment ' Centre for Maori Studies and Research, University of Waikato , Occasional Paper No 27, Hamilton.
5. Challenger, N 1987 'The Basis of Pakeha Land Use' in 'E Rua Nga lwi Kotahi Ano te Whenua' Proceedings of 1987 NZILA Conference.
6. Relph E.C. 1983 'Rational Landscapes and Humanist Geography' Croom Helm, London
7. Relph E.C. ibid
8. Philips 1981 'Fear and Loathing in the New Zealand Landscape' in " New Zealand Where Are You?" Proceedings of 1981 NZILA Conference .
Taylor, A and M Patrick 1987 Look at Water Through Different Eyes - The Maori Perspective'. Soil and Water Vol 23 No 4 pp 22-25 NWASCA, Wellington
Patrick, M 1987 Maori Values of Soil and Water. Soil and Water ; Autumn 1987 NWASCA, Wellington The principle source of reference was Neil Challenger 's Dip LA Dissertation, 'Attitudes to Land, A Comparison of Values', Lincoln College 1986.
Neil Challenger has a BA in History from the University of Canterbury and a Dip LA from Lincoln College . Since graduating in 1985 Neil has been working on the West Coast, initially with the New Zealand Forest Service and since its demise in April 1987, was with the Department of Conservation.