The Treaty is Not a Checkbox

1 July 2021, 16:52 UTC |

The voices of Tangata Whenua need to be heard in climate action discussions and decisions. At the moment, Aotearoa law does not require their voices to be a part of the solution for climate change, this isn’t right. We must switch from checking the box to meaningfully meeting the Te Tiriti o Waitangi. 

Indigenous Peoples Should Be Involved in Climate Action Law 

Indigenous peoples have a huge place in climate action plans and law. Indigenous peoples around the world have a rich knowledge of environmental protection. From generations of living in harmony with the land, they have developed a deep understanding of how the land works and how to best look after it for its prosperity now and far into the future. We all have much to learn from indigenous knowledge and experience in living harmoniously with the natural world. Their knowledge is invaluable to environmental law for the benefit of our earth and all who call it home.  

The Climate Crisis will Impact Māori 

Climate change is known to impact the ability to undertake cultural practices across the globe, in particular on indigenous groups. Māori cultural practices will be heavily impacted by the predicted effects of climate change. Māori have a concept called tūrangawaewae. To Māori tūrangawaewae is a place where they are empowered and connected to the land. This deep connection to the land will be heavily impacted by the climate crisis. When the health of the land is damaged so too is the health of those connected to it. 

Climate Action Law New Zealand: The Zero Carbon Amendment Act 2019 

The Zero Carbon Amendment Act of 2019 was an amendment of the 2002 Climate Response Act. The Act was put in place after a campaign by Generation Zero. Generation Zero wanted a climate law here in Aotearoa to provide a clear framework for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions in New Zealand. But their campaign also asked for climate law that honoured Te Tiriti o Waitangi by giving effect to meaningful partnership with iwi and hapū and by drawing upon Māori knowledge and values to inform guardianship of our environment. This was not fulfilled in the Amendment of the 2002 Climate Response Act by the Government. 

The Zero Carbon Act included the making of our Climate Change Commission. The Commission’s purpose is to help inform the Government's targets for emission reduction. The Commission's role is to provide advice to the Government on climate issues. In the Act it states that "particular attention is required to seek nominations from iwi and Māori representative organizations (onto the commission)". Meaning that Government must seek Māori representation - but they do not have to have it. If we truly are to honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi, it must be a standard that there be Māori representation in these governing bodies, rather than just seeking it. Indigenous involvement is not something that should just be ticked by governments, businesses and institutions. The mentality should instead be, 'how can we meaningfully involve Māori and have participation and partnership'. 

As partnership is not required in the Act as it states, drawing upon Māori knowledge and values to inform our guardianship of the environment could be missed in our country’s climate actions. I for one won’t stand for this. I ask you to join me in raising your voice to ask for the Zero Carbon Act to be changed to ensure Māori have a voice in the outcomes that will affect them the most, and to ensure the advice our Government receives is enriched with mātauranga, the knowledge of the first people of this land. 

Morgan, Hauraki Plains College

Take Action 
Write to... 
Climate Change Commission Secretariat 
Level 21, 1 Willis Street 
Wellington 6011 
PO Box 24448 
Wellington 6142 
Speak up on social media… 
Question how our government is involving Māori in our country's climate action plans on social media. 
Question your context… 
Think about how your organisations, business, and groups are addressing the Te Tiriti o Waitangi