Volume 109 2000 > Volume 109, No. 4 > Kaitiakitanga: A Maori anthropological perspective of the Maori socio-environmental ethic of resource management, by Merata Kawharu, p 349-370
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The Maori resource management term kaitiakitanga is commonly used in legal or environmental contexts but there are dimensions and applications, including the system of penalties and rewards, that are not widely understood. This essay explores some of these dimensions which apply not only within the environmental realm (as has been emphasised since the Resource Management Act 1991 [RMA 1991]), but above all within the social realm. Indeed, proceeding to any analysis of kaitiakitanga in legal or political contexts, first of all it is necessary to consider its original meanings as well as the rights and responsibilities of those who customarily apply the principle. Kaitiakitanga is being used increasingly by Maori tribal groups in political discourse to claim certain rights under the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi on the basis of being tangata whenua (primary custodians of a given geo-political territory, literally ‘people of the land’).

Kaitiakitanga should be defined not only as ‘guardianship’ as has been emphasised by the Crown, local government and some Maori, but also as ‘resource management’. Kaitiakitanga embraces social and environmental dimensions. Human, material and non-material elements are all to be kept in balance. Current use of kaitiakitanga has tended to emphasise conservation and protection. As with other concepts, such as tangata whenua, kaitiakitanga might even be thought to have been captured by latter day colonisation (see Habermas 1976). At all events, the present paper offers a tribal perspective, adding to the ideas raised by Marsden and Henare (1992), Roberts et al. (1995) and Mutu (1995), and emphasising broader meanings of kaitiakitanga as applied within kin group social organisation. Kaitiakitanga cannot be understood without regard to key concepts including mana (rangatiratanga) ‘authority’, mauri ‘spiritual life-principle’, tapu ‘sacredness, set apart’, rahui ‘prohibition or conservation’, manaaki ‘hospitality’ and tuku ‘transfer, gift, release’. 1 The various forms of kaitiakitanga referred to throughout this essay show how these concepts are relevant. Above all, it is through a whakapapa ‘genealogical layering’ paradigm, where all elements within the universe are ordered in linear (descent-time) and lateral (kinship-space) layers, that kaitiakitanga finds its rationale. Kaitiakitanga continues to find - 350 centrality in Maori kin-based communities because it weaves together ancestral, environmental and social threads of identity, purpose and practice.

I consider the relevance of kaitiakitanga for contemporary issues of kinship, community and mana whenua ‘authority and title over land and other resources’ as applied by, for example, Ngati Whatua and Ngapuhi tribal groups. 2 For instance, how is it considered by Maori and non-Maori in environmental arenas as well as other non-RMA 1991 related spheres? How has the term found common usage? Legislative inclusion of the word is, in large part, the result of developments in wider Treaty contexts, particularly those in the 1980s (Waitangi Tribunal reports for instance). Although it is beyond the scope of this essay to discuss kaitiakitanga in legislation, key themes will nevertheless be considered. It has clearly become a guiding principle in all bicultural policy between Maori kin groups and the Crown or other non-Maori in Aotearoa New Zealand.


Literal interpretations stem from the core word tiaki meaning ‘to care for, guard, protect, to keep watch over and shelter’ (Marsden and Henare 1992), hence kaitiakitanga meaning trusteeship and guardianship. Kai is a generic term and when applied to tiaki as a prefix, it has a literal translation meaning ‘caretaker, guardian, conservator, or trustee’. 3 The Williams Maori Dictionary does not mention the word kaitiakitanga but defines tiaki as “to guard, keep” and tiakanga as “circumstance of watching or guarding” (Williams 1957:414).

While the word may be recent, the underlying values and cultural convictions have been key facets of Maori life for generations in the management of resources and the promotion of identity. However, language, like culture, is always evolving to dynamically meet present circumstances. Rangatiratanga is a well-known example of a new term developed from the customary base word rangatira. It accounted for new ways of embracing customary values as well as missionary ideas. One of its first written uses was the missionary interpretation of the Lord's Prayer kia tae mai tou rangatiratanga: ‘thy Kingdom come’. Before missionary arrival, mana was used instead of rangatiratanga because it conveyed the same repertoire of beliefs (Walker 1990). Although rangatiratanga has been termed a “missionary neologism” (Walker 1989:264), Maori people themselves use the term widely because it encapsulates a system of values which are protected by Article Two of the Treaty of Waitangi. Kaitiakitanga also explicitly embraces customary values at the same time that it implicitly expresses contemporary processes of adapting to new political and legal opportunities.

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What kaitiakitanga entails in practice is not simply defined, nor does it have a single meaning. Although kaitiakitanga is seen within the broader context of cosmic unity between humans and the universe, it must nevertheless be interpreted on two interdependent levels: the philosophical and the pragmatic. Each reflects the other. Kaitiakitanga may be interpreted differently between kin groups and, indeed, its application may differ among members of the same kin group. Despite these differences, however, there are some essential features. It incorporates a nexus of beliefs that permeates the spiritual, environmental and human spheres: rangatiratanga, mana whenua ‘customary authority over, and of, land’, tapu, rahui, hihiri and mauri ‘life principle’ (Marsden and Henare 1992). Kaitiakitanga also embraces social protocols associated with hospitality, reciprocity and obligation (manaaki, tuku and utu). These beliefs are moulded with, and by, each generation for they have an important role in maintaining the social fabric of the kin group. Moreover, kaitiakitanga is a fundamental means by which survival is ensured—survival in spiritual, economic and political terms. Since Maori society is a tribal society with respect to relationships with environmental resources, their actual management is itself a constituent element in the tribal kinship system.

In interpreting the concept, Roberts et al. (1995) and Mutu (1995) have translated a wider Maori cultural belief system into the English term “guardianship”. Government policy papers (see Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment [PCE] 1996) and the RMA 1991 also refer to kaitiakitanga as “guardianship”. Maori interpretations of kaitiakitanga as guardianship is perhaps a response to the Crown's need to understand more fully what kaitiakitanga means in terms intelligible to the Crown. A problem has developed, however, where kaitiakitanga has become almost locked into meaning simply “guardianship” without understanding of (or in the case of the Crown, providing for) the wider obligations and rights it embraces. Maori interpretations of kaitiakitanga as guardianship can be far greater than non-Maori interpretations of it. Some Maori believe that the RMA 1991 kaitiakitanga definition includes their more expansive interpretations, as case law in the Environment Court has demonstrated (for example, Haddon v Auckland Regional Council [1994] NZRMA 49).

Kaitiakitanga has been interpreted more broadly by some (see for example, the Ministry of Maori Development 1993:10, Marsden and Henare 1992). Given that it is applied across all dimensions of Maori life, broad interpretations of the term include resource management, resource administration, sustainable development and so on. Resources, be they human, material or non-material, are managed according to the system of values defined within the kin group.

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Mutu and Rikys (1993) caution about the difficulties of translating a holistic value system into another language, or more particularly, into specific words. Subtleties, context and emphasis may be lost between Maori and English translations of kaitiakitanga. Furthermore, without care in practice this may result in creating and implementing limited policy or making incorrect judgments such was demonstrated by the Rural Management v Banks Peninsula District Council (1994) 412. 4 Kaitiakitanga has been translated by catch-phrases such as “sustainable management”. For Maori, this dimension of kaitiakitanga concerns more than present processes of using, developing or protecting resources. It is also about putting resource use, development or protection in context within an historical framework of how rights to exercise kaitiakitanga are justified. This means, for example, considering the relevance of ancestral association with lands and resources, and thus the rights and responsibilities descendants today now find themselves upholding. That is, kaitiakitanga is equally about the past and managing sets of relationships that transcend time and space: between atua ‘gods, spiritual beings’ and ancestors on one hand, and their living kaitiaki on the other. The historical aspect of kaitiakitanga can be understood with reference to the aphorism regarding Maori walking backwards into the future, i.e., taking the past with them while advancing into the unknown. Present and future circumstances are made sense of by referencing the past and all it contains. The cultural approach of collapsing time is best understood by the genealogical framework called whakapapa. As an organising principle and charter, everything within the universe is ordered into layers. Kaitiakitanga can be interpreted as sustainable management, but not without reference to whakapapa and the time and space mapping paradigm it represents. Kaitiakitanga is, therefore, more than managing relations between environmental resources and humans; it also involves managing relationships between people in the past, present and future.

Kaitiakitanga is a body of lore maintained by sanctions and by careful observation of appropriate rituals so that relationships, not only between the group and the environment, but also within the kin group, are regulated. For this reason alone, kaitiakitanga cannot be interpreted as simply an ethic whose relevance is found only in relation to the bio-physical environment. Put another way, kaitiakitanga philosophies concern sustainability principles in environmental and social spheres. In practice this means that managing environmental resources of a given geo-political territory cannot exclude people and requires keeping the two sets of responsibilities in balance (see also M. Kawharu 1999:69). Moreover, every dimension of tribal life made reference to kaitiaki philosophies symbolically or practically as a way of insulating the individual and group from political, economic or spiritual - 353 harm. Thus, underpinning the application of kaitiakitanga was the ethic of reciprocity. Reciprocity enhances the political strength of the kin group by maintaining relations between humans, their ancestors, the spirit world and the natural environment.


As a tool, kaitiakitanga is used by Maori to promote their unique status as tangata whenua, while also affirming certain rights guaranteed by Article Two of the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi. Maori are perhaps more fortunate than some other indigenous peoples—Australian Aboriginal people, for example—because British Crown agents “treated” with the Natives (with of course their own settlement and capitalist goals in mind), resulting in the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi. While Captain Hobson and his officials may not have envisaged Maori control over their estates to the extent that Maori people have argued since 1840, one thing is certain: the Treaty, specifically Article Two, does protect customary authority in exchange for the right of the Crown to govern. 5 Indeed, kaitiakitanga is both an expression and affirmation of rangatiratanga. Rakiihia Tau, the principal claimant for the Ngai Tahu Treaty claim, highlights the close inter-relationship between rangatiratanga and principles of kaitiakitanga: “Our relationship, management and administration as Ngai Tahu whanui of the mutton bird or Titi Islands is perhaps the nearest living example we have to the meaning of Rangatiratanga to our natural resources or mahinga kai” (Ngai Tahu Doc. J10:25).

Rangatiratanga is the authority for kaitiakitanga to be exercised. Kaitiakitanga has always been part of marking political boundaries between Maori kin groups. And in the cross-cultural context of Treaty-driven rationalities, kaitiakitanga is an important element of local kin groups' “ethnic” identity, used to mark a socio-cultural boundary and to mark distinctiveness (cf. Barth 1969). An important part of ethnic groups expressing their identity is by organising their experiences in interaction with others (Wallman 1979). Within Maori society there are many committees and organisations specifically established to articulate kin groups' historically-based resource management experiences and interests in inter-cultural contexts. Spoonley (1993:36ff) and Greenland (1984) add that ethnic identity is used to serve political and legal agendas. For Maori, establishing difference in historical, cultural and political terms, leverage, recognition, equity and access to resources can be justified, at least where rights to have rangatiratanga and, by extension, kaitiakitanga protected are emphasised. Kaitiakitanga is one of the most potent political tools used by kin groups to promote unique rights for contributing toward a wide range of - 354 resource management initiatives. Management of wahi tapu ‘sacred areas’ during and after pine tree harvesting in commercial forests of Woodhill (northwest of Auckland) is one case where kaitiakitanga is protected through joint efforts by Ngati Whatua and the forestry company Carter Holt Harvey.


Exercising kaitiakitanga in all aspects of Maori tribal life requires assessment and protection of particular Maori resource management interests by not only Maori people, but also those with whom they interact and who are themselves stakeholders in resource management. Carter Holt Harvey, other business enterprises, central and local government, and private land owners each have major resource management interests many of which overlap, if not conflict, with those of local Maori. Being “tribal”, therefore, does not imply separation or dissociation from mainstream institutions, processes, values or paradigms. To the contrary, kaitiakitanga has become a major binding force between Maori and non-Maori. Legal and political requirements to develop kaitiakitanga policy have resulted in a new platform from which bicultural relationships between Maori and non-Maori can be fostered, common concerns of resource management addressed and specific rights of all parties protected. “Partnership” is a common principle underpinning Maori/non-Maori relationships. And a Treaty-based partnership as a Treaty principle has been established in major court cases (see for example, New Zealand Maori Council v Attorney General [1987] 1 NZLR 641) and by the Waitangi Tribunal. Partnership is further embraced by the RMA 1991, particularly through Part II, Sections 7(a), 6(e) and 8.

Before the RMA 1991 was enacted, few examples can be found of local tribal groups and non-Maori specifically considering the term kaitiakitanga despite its philosophical foundation having had longstanding significance. However, the term now finds prominence in local government policy statements (albeit in a limited sense in some council policies), tribal environmental policy statements and Environment Court cases as a result of compliance with the RMA 1991 and other relevant resource legislation. 6

Kaitiakitanga has become highly politicised where it is associated with issues of control and authority over not only environmental resources, but also human (social) resources. The Treaty protects such customary principles and is affirmed directly or indirectly in legislation such as the RMA 1991, the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975, the Conservation Act 1987, the Historic Places Act 1993 and the Maori Land Act 1993. Ironically, where Crown Law has historically undermined and destroyed principles and practices of kaitiakitanga, it is now Crown Law that has provided much opportunity to protect it. For instance, in the Treaty claim context, defined by the Treaty of - 355 Waitangi Act 1975, Maori are increasingly expressing the relevance of kaitiakitanga as justification to seek compensation from the Crown where the latter has undermined the system of beliefs and practices kaitiakitanga represents. In addition to legal opportunities to exercise kaitiakitanga, commercially-driven initiatives at local and international levels are defining important pathways for tribal resource management and development.

Exercising kaitiakitanga in this post Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975 politico-legal and market environment continues to be in the hands of those holding customary authority: mana whenua. That is, although kaitiakitanga is a central feature of a ‘Maori’ identity, proper validation is not at a generic “Maori” group level, but at the local kin group level. Mana whenua is a primary example of reciprocity inherent in customary beliefs where the term is not only about exercising authority over lands, but also recognising the life-sustaining ability and authority of lands over the group who manages an area carefully. Local kin groups have exclusive responsibilities to protect and maintain three types of authority as well as keeping each in balance: human (mana tangata), spiritual (mana atua) and mana whenua. In contrast, non-kin based groups which are recognisably “Maori” in other ways (Waipareira Trust in Auckland for example) have limited kaitiaki roles with respect to their beneficiaries who characteristically affiliate with a number of tribal groups throughout the country. In their circumstances, kaitiakitanga may be more focused towards protecting mana tangata, as in providing social services, as opposed to balancing mana tangata within a mana whenua framework.

What Led to the Term Kaitiakitanga Finding Common Currency?

The increased use and expression of kaitiakitanga can be seen within a continuum of other concerted expressions by Maori of their ethnicity and ethnic identity in pursuing political, legal or socio-cultural justice goals over many decades at tribal and national levels. Laws now protecting the exercise of kaitiakitanga are in large part the result of continual pressure by Maori to develop policy for protecting rangatiratanga. Recent expressions of ethnic identity and rangatiratanga include Maori language promotion as a political objective, particularly from the early 1980s (Douglas 1992), and the flourishing of contemporary Maori art, including cultural performance and Maori-curated exhibitions. 7 In addition, various forms of Maori activism and protest have become commonplace, particularly since the 1960s. But they began as early as the colonial era, e.g., Ngapuhi leader Hone Heke's felling of the Crown flagpole at Kororareka in the 1840s, and continued with the nationally-formed kotahitanga ‘unification movements’, such as the New Zealand Maori Congress. These movements explicitly advocated - 356 recognition of tribal rangatiratanga and, by extension, kaitiakitanga. Increasingly, the term kaitiakitanga is being used by Maori in expressing their grievances against the Crown in the Treaty claim process. The net effect of various forms of cultural and political expression is that the term is gaining heightened prominence more generally. Put simply, the application of rangatiratanga over decades has created a fertile politico-legal context for kaitiakitanga to be expressed at local levels.

Contemporary expressions are seen in kin-based committees and Maori Trust Boards, some of whose existence depends on legislation. Those upholding kaitiaki ‘trustee’ roles in a trust or other tribal committee are characteristically elected by voting procedures and hold office for a specified term. The legal rationale for their existence may derive from the Maori Trust Boards Act 1955 or the Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993. They can be compared to other kaitiaki, such as elders, who are not elected according to legal principles. Accountability to the kin group is paramount, but accountability must also be made to the Crown where boards are governed by the somewhat outdated Maori Trust Board Act 1955. Furthermore, kaitiakitanga may be bureaucratised in practice. This in itself may not be problematic but tensions do arise between, for example, elder trustees and younger, perhaps urbanised, Maori who do not fully understand the extent of customary or even legal responsibility. Nevertheless, core cultural values remain as constant guiding principles even if practice is limited. And without the mandate and authority of those they represent, it would be impossible to perform kaitiaki roles.

Further forms of exercising kaitiakitanga, both in relation to the specific resource areas involved and the kin group, include writing submissions regarding resource consent applications, applying for protection of significant sites, environmental (and by implication social) policy preparation, drafting and implementation.

Kaitiakitanga practices also find relevance in a range of other modified forms such as the Auckland Museum's legislated body, the Taumata-a-Iwi. Its membership is defined by mana whenua principles and is, therefore, based on representation from Ngati Whatua, the tribe upon whose ancestral land the Museum stands, and from Ngati Paoa and Tainui, recognised as having tangata whenua rights in the region more broadly. Their primary function is to provide advice to the governing Museum Trust Board on Maori concerns pertaining to the taonga ‘treasures’ held in the Museum. Although the term kaitiakitanga does not appear in the Museum's governing act, the Auckland Museum governance structure nevertheless sets a precedent for other museums by providing scope for this customary principle to be exercised through the Taumata-a-Iwi.

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Another model demonstrating tangata whenua exercising kaitiakitanga in new contexts is the Treaty-based partnership between the Crown and the Ngati Whatua health authority known as Tihi Ora. Together with the Crown, Tihi Ora purchases health care services for delivery to all Maori living within the Ngati Whatua tribal district.


Kaitiakitanga finds equal relevance in an intra-cultural context where status and authority of one Maori kin group is marked over another. Context will always determine the intended meaning of kaitiakitanga. Development and exploitation of environmental and human resources are important to promote economic and political survival of the kin group. At other times, environmental resources may be completely left alone, perhaps for regenerating purposes. Such has been customary practice as a result of generations of careful observation and objective experimentation.


A restriction or prohibition where something becomes tapu, or set apart from normal use, is often known as rahui. Traditionally, rahui was implemented over an area by a specialist performing a karakia ‘incantation’, inducing presiding spiritual powers to intervene and render it tapu, and to offer protection and help the resource area to return to normal health. Specifically, karakia addressed the life principle or mauri of the resource. Mauri is also an integral part of all resources and natural phenomena. Resources such as a fishing area, a forest, sea, river or individual species each have their own mauri. Like tapu, it is the power of the gods that enables things to live within the bounds of their existence (Barlow 1991), a force that binds together the spiritual dimension and physical body until death, when mauri separates from the body and returns to the realm of the spirits. Although this quality or principle is not created by humans, Maori believed they could instil mauri into objects that are seemingly “lifeless’ (such as a building or stone) by karakia. Perhaps more correctly, appropriate gods instil mauri through the medium of performance by specialists. Once imbued with mauri, the object or thing becomes the receptacle or vehicle for spiritual authorities to promote well-being within a specified object or area. Mauri itself, therefore, acts as a metaphysical kaitiaki when humans uphold customary management responsibilities.

Rahui today are implemented over a polluted or relatively unproductive resource base in order that spiritual (mauri) and physical dimensions may be revitalised, assuming that the life force of the resource concerned is not beyond recovery. Rahui is often used for fishing grounds where, for instance, - 358 a death at sea has occurred and the body is not found. The area should not, as a matter of commonsense, be fished until it was safe to do so, perhaps a couple of weeks, or longer.

Another type of rahui is implemented over a depleted resource area as a conservation prohibition. Part of a kin group's resource base may be under rahui, but other areas remain open, a practice not too dissimilar to common crop rotation. Resource management practices, particularly in respect of fishing, often continue to be based on a rotational roster. In former times, Ngati Whatua hapu (sub-tribal groups) living in the Auckland isthmus had a range of resource-rich areas including, and between, the Waitemata and Manukau Harbours which were used according to seasons and/or rahui (see Orakei Minute Book (OMB) 1868, Vol. 1 and 2). Likewise, a proverb of a Hawkes Bay tribe describes the alternating management aspects of their resources: “Ka pa a Tangitu, ka huaki a Maungahahuru, ka pa a Maungahahuru ka huaki a Tangitu…. When Tangitu (the deep-sea fishing ground off Tangoio) is closed, Maungahahuru (a mountain range prolific in bird life) opens, when Maungahahuru closes, Tangitu opens” (Breese n.d.:25).

Rahui also operate where a certain resource is set aside for a particular purpose (Taylor 1974, Best 1942, Barlow 1991). For instance, a flax bush (Phormium tenax), pingao (Desmoschoenus spiralis) or other weaving resources still may be designated for making a special item such as a cloak, whariki ‘mat’ or other prized item. Likewise, particular trees were placed under rahui for canoe building purposes. 8 A further instance of rahui was where special resource areas were marked out for specified harvesting, perhaps to ensure enough food was available for an important tribal gathering.

All types of rahui, whether for rejuvenating or periodical harvesting, constitute one of the most potent categories of customary resource management. Today rahui continues to have political and economic value even though practised to a lesser extent than before (where Maori no longer have title to lands and much customary knowledge has been lost). Rahui expresses broader rights to exercise kaitiakitanga. For instance, in recent times, the Kaipara Harbour was subjected to a rahui placed by Ngati Whatua because fish were becoming scarce largely because of commercial overfishing. The rahui was driven not only by an economic imperative which argued for better protection of the fish resource, but also by a political one underpinned by the need to make a statement about Ngati Whatua's customary authority over the Harbour and its resources. Yet rahui is perhaps an unnecessary survival principle for some Maori compared to the competitive objectives of capitalism or commerce. But survival in these latter terms is defined by individual rather than group imperatives.

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All kaitiaki are concerned with not only guardianship responsibilities, but also spiritual and physical management. As guardians, protectors, managers and administrators, kaitiaki preside over different orders of reality. In the spiritual realm kaitiaki may appear in the form of mythical beings, such as tribal taniwha, or ancestral keepers, such as family or tribal gods. Takauere is a well-known taniwha of the northern Ngapuhi tribe who resides within the geothermal springs at Ngawha (Waitangi Tribunal 1993). A unique double trusteeship or reciprocal relationship exists between Takauere and Ngapuhi, where careful administration of the hot springs by Takauere and the people ensures that Ngapuhi's well-being is protected. Two taniwha roam throughout the waters of the Kaipara Harbour and carry out kaitiaki duties looking after both Ngati Whatua and the Harbour. Perhaps a better known kaitiaki within Ngati Whatua is Tumutumuwhenua. Oral tradition and whakapapa tell the story of Tumutumuwhenua being a mythical or spiritual guardian who rose out of the earth and is the ancestor of all Ngati Whatua today. Tumutumuwhenua's significance as a key tribal kaitiaki is symbolised by the meeting house at Orakei bearing his name.

In the social world, kaumatua ‘elders’ and rangatira ‘leaders’ are the principal kaitiaki of the kin group and administer all the major affairs of their people politically, economically and spiritually. Resource use and distribution in general, and large fishing parties or crop harvesting groups in particular were organised by rangatira and kaumatua, while the spiritual management of resources and people was undertaken by specialist rangatira or kaumatua, called tohunga. The management ethic entailed a fundamental responsibility of accountability. Tohunga, rangatira and kaumatua were accountable to, and kept in check by, the wider kin group who recognised them and who together upheld the values pertaining to tapu, mana and the reciprocity between kin. Should rangatira or kaumatua become unduly autocratic, their leadership could soon be put in jeopardy. Quoting Walker, Marsden (1988:12) comments that: “Rule was exercised by the chiefs, elders and priests; but the power that they held was tempered by kinship bonds and the need to validate leadership by generous and wise rule.” This was particularly evident when families gave certain foods or gifts to their leaders in return for protection of their affairs and interests in resources. Effective leadership has been defined by ascription, by lineage and by personal achievement. Today leadership may entail a degree of blurring between achievement in the tribal and non-tribal spheres. That is, an individual successful in his or her profession independent of the group may, for that reason, gain a leadership role within the kin group, but it will be tempered by principles of the kinship system.

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The essence of manaaki ‘hospitality’ offered by a host group to visitors in rituals of encounter is an important dimension of kaitiakitanga. Manaaki is a protocol that centres on the ideal of giving in order to maintain (or establish) authority, prestige and status. It is selfish, yet selfless. The extent of giving is relative to the extent of mana. Manaaki is very much a two-way relationship, just like the exercise of kaitiakitanga over environmental resources. Both sides benefit according to the level of generosity displayed to the other. Manaaki strengthens kinship bonds and is the primary means of developing alliances either within tribal groups or between them. The context for applying manaaki is often the marae, the major ceremonial venue of a kin group and the quintessential focus of its identity. The marae, and all contained within it, is itself a symbolic and practical manifestation of a kin group's mana to maintain kaitiakitanga within a defined territory. Marae also continue to be the place where, inter alia, discussions concerning major issues of resource management are held.

Today there is heavy demand on kaumatua to provide manaaki in a range of contexts, not solely confined to the marae. Key elders of the Orakei hapu frequently apply kaitiakitanga at civic ceremonies throughout Auckland, such as at openings of events or buildings, including CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting), APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) conference, America's Cup Village and Royal Australasian College of Surgeons conference. Kaumatua also regularly welcome other tribes to events organised by other institutions. In December 1998 for instance, the Auckland Museum and Ngati Whatua welcomed Second World War veterans and their families to the opening of a First World War Pioneer Maori Battalion commemoration project and exhibition. While the physical layout of a marae is absent in such circumstances, spatial and ceremonial elements of proscribed and prescribed ritual normally applied on a marae are clearly demonstrated. Patterns and orders of speaking, separation of tangata whenua ‘hosts’ and manuhiri ‘guests’ followed by the joining of the two groups are customarily followed. The marae construct itself mediates relationships and provides the vehicle to give context to kaitiakitanga principles. 9

Kaitiaki who are ancestors, gods or mythical beings are represented in stylised carving forms (whakairo) such as those embellishing meeting houses. Indeed, kaitiaki in carvings have more than aesthetic value. Whakairo are important references to the living (human) kaitiaki of the value system they represent. Meeting houses themselves are the most vivid symbolic form expressing kaitiaki principles and are the physical and political markers of a kin group's identity.

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Tuku and kaitiakitanga

Another dimension is tuku ‘gift, giving, lease or release’. Customarily, rangatira, on behalf of the group, gifted certain lands to another for temporary or sometimes permanent use. While rights of use were gifted, an ongoing relationship between the donor and the land concerned endured. Accordingly, relationships between donor and receiver were also expected to continue. Tuku was tagged with an unwritten obligation to return something in kind. It was a reciprocal obligation that not only gave freedom to the receivers to use certain lands and resources, but also placed a debt on them. Such obligations were not always precisely defined, but the nature of the gifting process more than the actual gift itself would suggest to the receiver appropriate ways of reciprocating. Tuku has been described as “a balancing of accounts” (OMB 1868, Vol. 2:26). Repayment may occur between successive generations since tuku is more about an alliance between two groups than between two individuals. If lands were given on a long term basis, perhaps for generations, the receiver could reciprocate with other material gifts, services or help in warfare. Tuku was an important way to cement alliances and could be further affirmed by marriage. While the receiver held a type of kaitiaki right over the gifted lands, importantly the donor group retained mana over such lands and, therefore, overall kaitiaki rights as demonstrated in the following Native Land Court case in 1868: “It is not the custom for one tribe to reside on the lands of another for a length of time. If one tribe went to live with another tribe for several years, it would not give them a title to the lands” (OMB 1868 Vol. 1:130). And in 1901 relating to lands in the Kaipara district of Ngati Whatua: “The only portion of Oruawharo that was ‘tuku'd’ to Matiu (of Uriohau)…was Te Raekau. I did not hear that the ‘mana’ over all Oruawharo was given to Matiu. I only heard of the ‘tuku’ of Te Raekau” (Kaipara Minute Book (KMB) 1901, Vol. 9:270).

Affirmation of kaitiaki rights

Being kaitiaki and maintaining rights associated with mana whenua was not automatic. It was negotiable and rights had to be continually proven, reinforced and maintained. Exercising kaitiakitanga is the result of acquiring title by discovery (whenua kite), conquest (take raupatu) or gift (I.H. Kawharu 1977, Firth 1959). No other group can, therefore, assert or claim kaitiaki rights unless they have demonstrated title to and continued mana over lands and resources.

Other means of acquiring kaitiaki rights were through whenua ohaki, where lands and resources were bequeathed to individuals upon the wishes of a dying leader. In this case, the resources willed were not the possession - 362 of the successor, but of a group. Rights of administration and management rather than exclusive rights in, and use of, the lands and resources in question were transferred from the leader to the individual. Once acquired, authority to manage lands and resources had to be maintained in other ways. Today rights to exercise kaitiakitanga are reinforced during rituals of encounter between the tangata whenua and manuhiri, usually on marae.

Kaitiakitanga rights are further affirmed by whakapapa ‘genealogical links’ to 1840 inhabitants of an area who monitored resource conservation, use and development. Today, Waitangi Tribunal hearings, Environment Court cases, submissions to central or local government are common forums where whakapapa is recited, just like Native Land Court hearings from 1865. This Ngati Whatua witness, who was questioned by court assessors in the Native Land Court late last century, emphasised the importance of whakapapa:

“On what do you ground your claim to Orakei?” “Are they the ancestors you have just mentioned?” “Yes.” “Do you claim through the same ancestor as Te Kawau?” “Yes.” “Does not Te Kawau make his claim to Orakei through his mother?” “Yes. Through his grandmother.” “What is her name?” “Toukarorae….” “Do you claim through Apihai's mother?” “Yes.” “What way do you do that?” “Because the ancestors were from Tamaki, from Ngaiwi….” “Do you make any claim to Orakei through Tahuri?” “Of course I do.” “Does Apihai do the same?” “Yes.” (OMB 1868, Vol. 2:7ff).

Perhaps the most conclusive assertion of rights to exercise kaitiakitanga was occupation. The term tangata whenua itself encapsulates kaitiakitanga principles where a reciprocal relationship exists between land and people as demonstrated by its literal meaning ‘people of the land’. Tangata whenua affirm their mana and their rights to exercise kaitiakitanga by maintaining an executive association with resources in a given territory. This principle is ahi ka, literally meaning ‘keeping fires burning’, a metaphor implying that in order for a fire to be kept alight, it has to be fed by someone who is occupying the area in question. Maintaining ahi ka assured (mana whenua) rights of a particular kin group to implement all forms of kaitiakitanga within a designated territory. Principles of ahi ka were frequently referred to in the Native Land Court to justify mana whenua:

“I know Orakei, Okahu and Whakatakataka. Those lands belong to me. My people live here and inland. I and my hapu are living here. The principal name of that place is Tamaki. I live at Orakei Okahu and Whakatakataka…. Te Taou Ngaoho and Uringutu are the people there. I have not known any other people living there. The settlements belonged to Te Taou. No other tribe interfered” (OMB 1868, Vol. 1:10f).

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Ngati Whatua's ahi ka was maintained at various settlements in Tamaki (Auckland) since conquest in the mid-18th century in, for example, Horotiu, Mangere, Onehunga, Mokoia-Mauinaina, Waiariki, Pukaki, Ihumatao, Rangitoto/Remuera, Te Rehu, Omahu, Motukorea, Wanganui, Karangahape, Whakamuhu, Taurarua, Takaparawhau, Waipapa, Purewa and Te To. Despite an intermittent spell away from Tamaki by some members who sought temporary refuge with their Waikato relatives when attacked by the northern Ngapuhi tribe in the early 1820s (Sullivan n.d., OMB 1868, Vol. I and 2), they returned to their Tamaki settlements immediately following the departure of the musket-armed enemy. Politically, at least, their fires in Tamaki had never grown cold and their kaitiaki rights remained intact.

Physical markers were another statement of mana. They included prominent and often sacred mountains, lakes, rivers, outcrops of rock, boundary markers such as posts (pou paenga). Such features of the land and seascape wove tribal histories and identity into one. Idioms asserting rights to implement kaitiakitanga were conveyed in waiata ‘song’ and whakatauki ‘proverb’. Many tribal groups define themselves by reference to important mountains, rivers or other bodies of water. For example, Ko Taupiri te maunga, ko Waikato te awa…. ‘Taupiri is the mountain, Waikato is the river…’, ko Hikurangi te maunga, ko Waiapu te awa, ko Ngati Porou te iwi: ‘Hikurangi is the mountain, Waiapu is the river, Ngati Porou are the people’. Many northern tribal groups had other identity markers. For instance, the following well-known Ngapuhi proverb called “the House of Ngapuhi” uses a metaphorical image of a house, each major settlement or points of reference being house uprights. Kinship ties are a key theme in the proverb. The issue of boundaries within which Ngapuhi assert their kaitiaki rights and responsibilities is also important:

He mea hanga: This is how it is made:
Ko Papatuanuku te papa-rahi The earth is the floor
Ko nga maunga nga poupou The mountains the supports
Ko te Rangi e titiro iho nei te tuanui The sky we see above is the roof
Puhanga Tohora titiro ki Te Ramaroa From Puhanga Tohora look towards Te Ramaroa
Te Ramaroa titiro ki Whiria Te Ramaroa look towards Whiria
Ko te paiaka o te riri, ki te kawa o Rahiri The seat of our war-like prowess, the ancestral line of Rahiri
Whiria titiro ki Pangaru, ki Papata From Whiria look toward Pangaru to Papata
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Ki te rakau tu papata i tu ki te Taihauru To the thickly growing trees which extend to the western sea
Pangaru Papata titiro ki Maunga Taniwha From Pangaru and Papata look toward Maunga Taniwha
Maunga Taniwha titiro ki Tokerau From Maunga Taniwha look toward Tokerau
Tokerau titiro ki Rakau Mangamanga From Tokerau look toward Rakau Mangamanga
Rakau Mangamanga titiro ki Manaia From Rakau Mangamanga look toward Manaia
Manaia titiro ki Tutamoe From Manaia look toward Tutamoe
Tutamoe titiro ki Maunganui From Tutamoe look toward Maunganui
Maunganui titiro ki Puhanga Tohora From Maunganui look toward Puhanga Tohora
Ko te whare ia tenei o Ngapuhi This is the house of Ngapuhi

The mountains referred to are themselves symbolic kaitiaki of the hapu who dwell beneath them. As with all whakatauki, there are many layers of meaning. This proverb, still used widely today, dramatises the relationships between humans and the environment.

Naming land after ancestors (tapatapa whenua or taunaha whenua) and important events were another practical way of asserting kaitiakitanga rights. Every tribal district is cloaked in a rich history of sites mapped upon the land and seascape, and named in memory of ancestors. There was hardly any place that was not associated with ancestors and was not given a corresponding name. In Auckland, layers of tribal histories are demonstrated through names. Te Paneohoroiwi ‘The Head of Horoiwi’, refers to the eastern headland by the Tamaki River and so named by Horoiwi, an ancestor of the Tainui tribe. Orakei, otherwise known as Orakeiiriora, is ‘The Place of Rakeiiriora’; Rakeiiriora was a leader from the Tokomaru canoe who lived in Tamaki for some time. Awanuioperetu ‘The Big River or Channel of Peretu’ refers to the Rangitoto Channel (see also Simmons 1987). Many names are stories, telling of how land was acquired, who was conquered, or how discoveries of resources were made and so on. Each commemorates an event and is a memorial to those ancestors who once lived and claimed areas.

Taonga ‘treasures of a kin group’ are an important reflection of a group's mana (see Tapsell 1998). Taonga has come to include all resources of the land and seascape, prized, tangible, material items such as canoes, carved meeting houses, cloaks and other woven items, and intangible things such - 365 as knowledge and tikanga. Common to each is a kin group's affirmation of links with lands and the wider environment and with ancestors, as epitomised by the phrase taonga tuku iho, literally, ‘heirlooms handed down’. Taonga is a general term that encapsulates notions of ancestral associations and reciprocity, and touches on ideas of something treasured.

The concept taonga was not applied by all tribal groups in the same way. Taonga for some does not include any prized animate or inanimate thing. Te Arawa beliefs, for instance, consider that humans cannot be classified as taonga. In fact, according to some oral traditions, lands, forests, fisheries, marae or sacred sites (wahi tapu) were not necessarily termed taonga (cf. Waitangi Tribunal in PCE 1996:54). To do so would have made commonplace their status and said nothing about the particular qualities of each. Environmental resources were considered on their own merits and potential within a holistic scheme that is the universe. Thus land was referred to as whenua rather than taonga, sacred waters as wai tapu rather than taonga and so on.

The concept taonga and its extended usages appear to be a development of the post 1840 Treaty era. The term itself is a key element in Article Two of the Treaty. Treaty claimants tend to put their claims in a framework in which land and other resources are seen as taonga, to further emphasise their rights under Article Two. Kaitiakitanga is best understood as the management of resources, but this can include management of taonga where the latter refers to lands, forests, fisheries or inanimate elements. Thus taonga are important markers not only of a group's identity and mana, but also of their kaitiakitanga rights.

Sacred burial grounds, referred to as urupa, wahi tapu, noho tupapaku or takotoranga koiwi, are other key markers of a group's authority over an area. Some were hidden to protect both the dead and the living from transgression by non-kin. Wahi tapu were an important means for the living to recognise those who had departed to the spiritual realm to become kaitiaki for the living. Today, wahi tapu provide a venue where protection and reverence offered from the living to the dead are believed to be reciprocated by the departed. Should a wahi tapu be desecrated, spiritual influences and powers associated with the sacredness of the place could cause serious harm, if not death, to the offenders. The following Ngati Whatua narrative expresses the central importance of wahi tapu in marking management rights of the tribal group over a specified territory. It invokes relationships between the living and dead and ideas of guardianship:

Ki mai ana Te Atua o te Po.
Ko Mangawhai ahau
Ka mate? Kahorehore, kahorehore!
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Ka pikipikitia ka kite ahau
I te tai o te uru, ngunguru te po
ngunguru te ao,
Wahi ka kutia, kakata, kakata, kakata
te whenua e!

Literal translation would lose the subtleties and compromise the mana mauri. “I te tai o te uru, ngunguru te po, ngunguru te ao” refers to burial grounds. Mangawhai is a prominent peak in Ngati Whatua territory that watches over the living and symbolically acts as kaitiaki. Used in formal speeches, this saying identifies certain forms of tribal mana in exercising kaitiakitanga in a spiritual and physical capacity.

The importance of burial grounds is seen in this ancestor's case to the Court in 1901 (KMB 1901, Vol. 10:38). The evidence concerns who were the kaitiaki of certain burial grounds: “Hotutaua was a Te Taou urupa [burial ground] in one sense although it really belongs to Ngati Koromatua hapu of Ngati Whatua. Ngati Koromatua are a sub-hapu of Te Taou” (KMB 1901, Vol. 10:135). Throughout the Native Land Court hearings, most witnesses cited wahi tapu and ancestral connections to original inhabitants to assert their rights and title. For example:

“Ko Te Tane Haratua toku ingoa. Kei Oromahoe toku kainga. He take tupuna toku take ki tenei whenua — Marupo, Te Waihue ma… He mana Rangatira no aku tupuna tuku iho, tuku iho te iho ki a au. He noho tuturu, he pa no aku tupuna, he wahi tapu…” (Papatupu Block Committee Minute Book 20, 1904:2).

“My name is Te Tane Haratua. My home is Oromahoe. My claim to this land is through ancestors - Marupo, Te Waihue and others…. The authority of my ancestors has been handed down to me. This is the primary home, there are ancestral pa and sacred burial grounds (which are further justifications for my claim)” (my translation).

Maori philosophy emphasises that kaitiakitanga is a socio-environmental ethic. While policy-makers have commonly given attention to its relevance in bio-physical resource management, its application is primarily concerned with social relations. Kaitiakitanga is not limited to “guardianship”. Guardianship reflects a literal interpretation but the concept has many dimensions, most importantly, resource management. Ultimately, context determines the various shades of intended meaning. However, it is not only about management of the environment and of people, but also about keeping them in balance, both in time and space. The customary framework for giving - 367 relevance to kaitiakitanga is whakapapa, a structural principle which weaves together a triadic relationship between human beings, their environment and the spiritual realm. Within this framework, reciprocity operates to maintain balance between all elements, a feature which perhaps distinguishes kaitiakitanga from other management regimes. In other words, a two-way relationship exists that involves obligations to give, receive and repay, a relationship that can be likened to a type of double trusteeship between kaitiaki and resources.

Although these customary principles (tikanga) underpinning kaitiakitanga may themselves remain constant, the exercise of kaitiakitanga may be ever-changing, adapting to new circumstances created by law, policy, infrastructural development, shifts in human, bio-physical and capital resources, and the like. Not least, it depends on the readiness of kin groups to capitalise on opportunity. Indeed, many opportunities for Maori have been shaped by Treaty-driven policies by which kaitiakitanga has been recognised by the Crown and others as the practical exercise of mana whenua, or in Treaty language, rangatiratanga. That is, the Treaty defines not only responsibilities, but also status and rights, rights protected by Article Two of the Treaty. However, while Maori have been guaranteed certain Treaty rights and while kaitiakitanga may be a basic principle in all kin group resource management and development policy, in order for rangatiratanga and kaitiakitanga to be substantiated, those rights need to be acted on by Maori and non-Maori. Thus, fostering partnerships between kin groups, on the one hand, and Crown, local government, corporate entities and private interests, on the other, are important in supporting this principle. Furthermore, it has been in such cross-cultural contexts where kaitiakitanga first gained prominence, especially for marking Maori ethnicity.

Kaitiakitanga assumes that there is an order and a logical consistency where things have their place, in the future, as well as in the past. Moreover, its values not only support social relationships, but also provide the basis for Maori to maintain kinship links between themselves and their environment, so ensuring a firm basis to engage in any bicultural dialogue concerning resource development.

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1   This article is developed from my DPhil thesis (M. Kawharu 1998).
2   It has been common in recent anthropological discourses position oneself as “insider” or “outsider” or “non-native”. Such labels, while useful in a general sense, need qualification here. I am intimately linked to my own tribal realities but, like all Maori, I am also simultaneously part of wider communities, national and/or inter-national, genealogical and geographical (cf. Narayan in Clifford 1997). I, therefore, present a different kind of insider view, that of an engaged observer of tribal realities, realities which embrace unique values of custom and capitalism.
3   Other examples using kai are kaiako ‘teacher’, kaikorero ‘speaker’, or kaiwhakahaere ‘organiser’.
4   In that case, kaitiakitanga was applied to the Council and it was argued that the Council had upheld its kaitiaki obligations.
5   Hobson was instructed by the Colonial Office in England to negotiate with Maori a cession of sovereignty, to set up government, and to assert the new government's exclusive right of pre-emption over Maori land (Orange 1987, Buick 1936).
6   See for example, the following Environment Court cases: Gill v. Rotorua District Council [1993] 2 NZRMA 604, Haddon v. Auckland Regional Council [1994] NZRMA 49, Hanton v. Auckland City Council [1994] NZRMA 289, Aqua King Ltd v. Fleetwing Farms Ltd and Anor [1995] NZRMA 314, Worldwide Leisure Group Ltd v. Symphony Group Ltd [1995] NZAR 177.
7   See Tapsell 1998 for discussion regarding museums and taonga.
8   Today canoes continue to be built mainly for ceremonial regatta or other special event purposes. For example, a number were made nationwide leading up to 1990 for the 150th celebrations of the signing of the Treaty.
9   Other social applications of kaitiakitanga include matua ‘kin of senior generations’ nurthuring the growth and development of their children and, therefore, maintaining broader kaitiaki rights associated with particular whakapapa lines.