“Providing for today as well as tomorrow”

By Rōpata Taylor
(Ngāti Rārua, Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Tama, Ngāti Koata)

In recent years the term kaitiakitanga has grown in recognition and entered our everyday vocabulary in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Schools, businesses, government and community organisations often express it as a priority and core value. While it’s often used as a Kiwi word for environmental sustainability, it is much more expansive than this, and is a cornerstone of Māori identity.

Kaitiakitanga stems from the responsibility people feel for the places, objects and legacies that are of utmost importance to them. At the heart of this is a holistic understanding of our place in the world – how we shape the landscapes around us, and how those landscapes shape us. This informs how we interact with the natural environment, including all the other species we share the earth with.

Kaitiakitanga is also about the social or human legacy and our obligations to the collectives of which we are members. This is our family, community, town, city, region, nationality and culture. It is the duty to uphold the values, traditions, customs and heritage of the people we belong to. This could be maintaining intergenerational knowledge, practising family recipes, caring for heirlooms or protecting important records and knowledge.

Practising kaitiakitanga is about awareness. Considering the consequences of our behaviour and the impact that this will have on people, place and planet. It is an individual and ethical way of thinking about our actions and the duties we carry. It is cyclical – a reciprocity that blends with all aspects of the human experience. Being mindful of balance and accepting that it is not someone else’s problem, but is indeed ours – that’s kaitiakitanga.

Toitū te marae a Tangaroa, toitū te marae a Tāne, toitū te iwi.

When the domain of Tangaroa and the realm of Tāne are sustained, so too is the future of humanity.