Pou Kura Taiao in each region stay in close contact with Māori communities.
We have talked with tangata whenua about conservation policies and strategies. We have heard concerns about the issues that are of particular importance, and also the wider views about conservation matters.
On the basis of those messages, we have been working to develop a range of policies that aim to enhance the ability of the department to build and support relationships with tangata whenua to achieve conservation outcomes for the natural and historic heritage of New Zealand.
The Department plays a full and active role in the Treaty settlements process which is led on the government side by the Office of Treaty Settlements. Given the particular importance of the land and other natural resources administered by the Department to Māori, the Department is included as a member of each Crown negotiating team.
The Department’s participation in Crown negotiating teams relates mainly to what is termed ‘cultural redress’ as opposed to other key aspects of settlements such as financial and commercial redress or the Crown's apology. The Department manages its input into the Treaty settlements process through the Policy Group within its National Office in Wellington.
Conservation redress is an integral part of settlements. A range of instruments has been developed to address various Māori interests in areas of public conservation land including transferring ownership of individual areas of high cultural significance, and mechanisms to involve and recognise tangata whenua in the Department’s management activities. In considering redress options, the Department seeks to protect natural values and where appropriate, public access to enjoy them as well. Generally, the cultural redress package developed for the Ngāi Tahu settlement continues to provide the framework for addressing cultural elements of settlements.
The concept of Tōpuni derives from the traditional Ngāi Tahu custom of rangatira (chiefs) extending their mana (power and authority) over areas or people by placing their cloaks over them. Tōpuni status therefore confirms the overlay of Ngāi Tahu values on these public conservation areas. The Tōpuni does not override or alter the existing status of the land, but ensures that Ngāi Tahu values are recognised, acknowledged, and provided for.
The Tōpuni involves three levels:
- statement of the Ngāi Tahu values;
- a set of principles for avoiding diminishing those values; and
- agreed actions to give effect to these principles.
The Tōpuni provides a public symbol of Ngāi Tahu manawhenua and rangatiratanga over the most prominent features of these public conservation areas. It is an enduring symbol of the tribe's commitment to conserving areas of high natural and historic values as well as ensuring an active role for Ngāi Tahu in the management of the area.