The key to sustainability could be in Aotearoa’s past

By looking back to the past and our indigenous knowledge, we can walk together as one into the future.

Mananui Ramsden, whose rūnanga is koukourarata, outlined a vision where Canterbury residents can live more sustainably on this land when he took to the stage as the first speaker at a TEDx Christchurch event in September.

Mananui is a Pou Mātai Kō – Cultural Land Management Advisor – for Environment Canterbury, although he was invited to TEDx in his personal capacity. As part of his role, he cultivates an understanding of Mahinga Kai, kaitiakitanga and Ngāi Tahutanga within land management.

In just over 12 minutes he invited hundreds of TEDx attendees to think back to a time when every person had an important role in ensuring that the community – and the environment – thrived.

He painted a vision of his people’s knowledge of mahinga kai, of gathering natural resources and trading with neighbours in a practical, economic and most importantly, sustainable way.

“Mahinga Kai says that our ability to provide for ourselves is a basic human right. It says we can live in accordance to the resources as and when they’re made available to us by Papatūānuku (Mother Earth),” Mananui says.

Mananui hopes his work with Environment Canterbury's conservation strategy for Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere will demonstrate to other regions how indigenous voices can be incorporated into resource management and even become a template. 

“My farmers can get their heads around it, see the value and really, really take pride in it,” he says. He added that in his work as Pou Mātai Kō, he has been able to establish relationships with landowners needing land use consents and help them understand the significance of their land and the relationship our first inhabitants had to it.