A Delicate Balancing Act

Dr. Hamish Foote

Docfa, Lecturer, Unitec Institute of Technology

Pete Griffiths

MLA, BLA, Program Leader at Unitec Institute of Technology


This paper examines a bicultural approach to the development of planting strategies for landscapes and asks the question: In what ways can vegetation help to create a bicultural landscape?  The case studies discussed include planting and design directives that are divergent in nature, however perhaps they can also help to demonstrate togetherness.



Alteration and change are words that seem to be prevalent in the development of urban, rural and residential areas; re-prints of current and past habitation are now, more than ever, important drivers for design.
‘The contemporary city is no longer the product of a single thought or plan…but rather the diffuse result of successive layers of decisions’.1
In Auckland one of the factors driving change is an on going discussion relating to ‘togetherness’, or to be more precise, the increasing awareness around a bicultural society.  This is happening in conjunction with exponential growth and its associated inevitable pressures, for example, the need for adequate housing options, increased transport infrastructure and the demand on existing public open space.  However, perhaps more importantly, within this urbanisation model, there is significant need for strengthening regional sustainability and biodiversity.
Critical writing around the term sustainability routinely includes environmental, social and cultural concerns. In his book Building Ecology 2 Peter Graham, Lecturer in Architecture at the University of New South Wales, describes the interconnectedness of people, custom, and place as necessary components of understanding sustainability,
‘The key to understanding ecology is the knowledge that all elements of the system, whether living or non-living are interdependent.  Understanding interdependency shifts the emphasis for learning from the components of the system to the relationships between components…’3
Graham alludes to the notion of our ‘greater self’4as being mindful about the communities of humans that the actions of the design disciplines affect.  This idea links to a deeper understanding of why vegetative strategies for particular places, have more than a purely scientific outcome associated with biodiversity.  It could be argued that a divergent planting strategy, made up of exotics and natives (species that are deeply entwined within place) have the ability to be physical manifestations of a conversation that delves into cultural heritage, racism, and in New Zealand, issues of Treaty, settlement, ownership and people.
Corroborating this somewhat loose idea, Trigger and Mulcock of The University of Western Australia, explain in their paper Native vs. Exotic: cultural discourses about flora, fauna and belonging in Australia,5
Environmental debates about which plant and animal species ‘belong’ in particular locations have a growing significance around the world…ideas about which species constitute weeds or pests and how those species should be managed can be strongly grounded in cultural values and beliefs.6
In the development of a bicultural landscape, then, planting strategies can perhaps deliver more than just the dichotomy of exotics vs. natives and become catalysts for a commentary associated with togetherness.

Legislative Framework

In this highly charged environment, landscape related policies and legislation become facilitator, both a shield and sword, and in some sense enable togetherness.  In 1992 the Department of Conservation adopted the Convention on Biological Diversity, which recognises that,
“…for the first time in international law… the conservation of biological diversity is “a common concern of humankind”. The agreement covers all ecosystems, species, and genetic resources’.7
The Resource Management Act (1991) is the first piece of legislation in New Zealand to make sustainable management a clear duty of government. One of the intentions of the RMA is to achieve an integrated management of natural and physical resources.  The act defines natural and physical resources, “as land, water, air, soil, mineral, and energy, all forms of plants and animals (whether native to New Zealand or introduced)”.8
The combination of native and exotics involves a delicate balancing act.  Legislation aims to protect New Zealand’s indigenous flora and fauna whilst seeking to preserve local character species. The latter are often described as ‘iconic landscape features’ many of which are exotic in nature.  Immigrants to New Zealand planted vegetation from their homeland in an attempt to alleviate the loneliness of relocation in an alien environment. The resultant landscapes are often referred to as neo-European.9 The Queenstown Lakes District Council District Tree Policy addresses this typology,
The Lakes District has many introduced trees, which were planted by early settlers and now form an integral part of Central Otago iconic landscapes. Examples are the Lombardy poplars… the Sycamores and Rowans…[and the] willows.  These introduced trees need to be managed on a long-term basis the length of which is governed by the expected life of the species involved. This could be up 150 years.10
In concert with these considerations the balancing of cultural factors are becoming increasingly prominent. To acknowledge and address these the development of the Te Aranga Design Principles and their subsequent inclusion in the Auckland Design Manual are an attempt to further strengthen a political agenda around a bicultural Auckland.
The key objective of the principles is to enhance the protection, reinstatement, development, and articulation of mana whenua cultural landscapes enabling all of us (mana whenua, mataawaka, tauiwi and manuhiri) to connect to and deepen our ‘sense of place’.11

Case Studies

Native Revegetation with
Exotic Counterpoints – Hunt Road, Catlins

The Hunt Road project is located in a small rural community in the South Eastern most corner of the South Island of New Zealand.  The site provides the program for the design intervention. The expansive, at times harsh, large-scale characteristics of the region and the muted tones and rugged materiality of the native landscape, provide the backdrop for a ‘matrix’  style planting strategy.  In this case normative riparian planting and native bush regeneration species provide a matrix into which other plants are inserted.  The matrix includes native riparian planting, comprised of Carex secta (sedge), Carex virgata, Carex maorica, Carex tenuiculmis, Opodasmia similis (oioi), Chionochloa ovata (tufted snow grass), Chionochloa oreophylla, Olearia bullata, and Cordyline australis (cabbage tree) and forest species such as Dacrycarpus cupressinum (rimu), Dacrycarpus dacrydioides (kahikatea), Prumnopitys ferruginea (miro), Prumnopitys taxifolia (mātai), and Podocarpus totara, Metrosideros umbellata (Southern rātā), Weinmannia racemosa (kāmahi), and Sophora microphylla (kōwhai).  
As a counterpoint to these endemic New Zealand species there are grid planted blocks of flowering exotic vegetation, which include Cornus ‘Eddie’s white wonder’ or Cornus ‘Greenvale’ (dogwoods), Cornus ‘Satomi’ (pink), Rhododendron bibiani (red), Rhododendron ‘Maketa’s Prize’ (scarlet red), and Rhododendron ‘White Pearl’ (white and pink).  This planting technique creates a hybrid landscape that references both indigenous history and aspects of European influence.
The planting scheme pays homage to the client’s long colonial ancestry in the region, whilst assuaging a deep-seated need to acknowledge the indigenous beauty of the site.  The scheme is designed to provoke discourse around the idea of ‘belonging’  - what species belongs where and to whom does the contextual landscape belong?  In this case the planting also serves to raise issues of culturally formed notions of identity and place, issues to do with hybridisation and the emergence of new mixed forms of cooperation.  
The planting scheme goes beyond plants for plants sake, and attempts to challenge the structure of conditions in which things occur. It confronts the way in which an ethno botanic situation can be identified, marginalised or assimilated.  


Transition from Exotic to Native – Arnold Street, Grey Lynn

Located in Grey Lynn Park (named after British Colonial Governor Sir George Grey (1812-1898)) are a number of exotic plants that form a starting point for the landscape scheme: a transition from exotic to native.  The proposition takes advantage of the close adjacency to the park by drawing out species Betula pendula (silver birch) from the park and suggesting ‘guerrilla’ planting of these on the roadside bunds.  From the folds of the front garden through to the rear of the property there is an evolution from exotic species to natives, which create links with neighbouring properties where there are stands of significant native specimen trees.  In collaboration with the client, a mix of exotic species were selected: Leucanthemum x superbum (Shasta daisy), Digitalus purpurea ‘Alba’ (white foxgloves), Papaver somniferum (opium poppy), Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpurescens’ (bronze fennel), Nigella damascena (love in a mist), Rosa ‘Ripples’ – floribunda, Reseda oderata (mignonette). Closer to the house there is an architectonic approach in the form of a clipped Podocarpus totara (tōtara) hedge.  Natives included in the scheme were: Coprosma kirkii, Muehlenbeckia astonii, Corokia x virgata ‘frosted chocolate’ and Coprosma viricens.
The divergent range of flora and fauna in this design approach reflects universal issues. The disappearance of indigenous species and the impact of on-going globalisation is a matter of worldwide interest and concern. Alfred Crosby addresses the issues in Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900 – 190013.  In New Zealand, issues relating to exotic and indigenous species and the environmental impact of their arrival and departure have also been given considerable attention. Crosby’s principles are demonstrated, in, for example, Ngā Uruora (The Groves of Life), Ecology and History in New Zealand14 by Geoff Park; in the late Keith Sinclair’s book A Destiny Apart: New Zealand’s search for Identity15,  and in, Aotearoa and New Zealand: A historical geography by Alan Grey16. The inclination to create Neo-European landscapes by colonial migrants, as demonstrated in Central Otago, is a recurring theme in the aforementioned texts.17
The Arnold Street planting scheme inverts this phenomenon.  Native vegetation is reinstated amongst an historical contextual backdrop of exotic specimen trees.  This demonstrates a new hybridity arising from New Zealand’s modern eclectic culture.  The strategy in which, the plants transition from exotic to native, in waves and folds, is derived from the idea that landscapes, in addition to being a product of culture, have the power to be a cultural construct.  
Landscapes are as much a reflection of the way people consider their place in the world as they are an aesthetic encounter,
The commonplace aspects of contemporary landscapes, the streets and houses…can tells us a great deal about history and society; about how we see ourselves and how we relate to the world.  Such vernacular landscapes, or ‘landscapes of the everyday’ are fluid identified with local custom, pragmatic adaption to circumstances, and unpredictable mobility.18

A Cultural Landscape – Unitec Campus19


The proposed scheme, which incorporates a blend of exotic and native vegetation, is a response to the unique qualities of both Unitec the institution and the culturally shared landscape context.  The two defining elements of culture and nature have been identified and harnessed in order to meet educational, business and residential demands and provide amenity, interest and permeability.
Te Ao Māori provides an overarching and enriching dimension at Unitec. Te Noho Kotahitanga20, the partnership document, acknowledges manu whenua and expresses Unitec’s commitment to the Treaty of Waitangi; the Poutama21embeds mātauranga Māori in the living curriculum; Te Aranga Design Principles guide Unitec’s design strategy and help to ensure the development of high quality and durable relationships with iwi and hapū; the sacred spring on campus, Te Wai Unuroa o Wairaka, is a galvanising and magnetic entity. Pukenga, Te Wharekai Manaaki and Te Noho Kotahitanga Marae are physical manifestations of this commitment and the importance of New Zealand’s unique cultural dimension to Unitec.

Collectively these entities form the campuses cultural heart.
The Mt Albert site is renowned for its landscape. Vegetation and water are defining qualities. The arboretum includes 200 different exotic and native species of plants and trees; the Mahi Whenua ‘Hortecology’ Sanctuary houses the community garden and food forest; a large wetland dominates the central campus; riparian planting accompanies Wairaka Stream on its travels from spring to the sea. This verdant and watery character is amplified by spectacular views of the Waitakere Ranges, the upper harbour and the close proximity to Oakley Creek Te Auaunga (whirlpool or swirling waters) on the western edge.
In light of this potent and unique intersection of culture and nature, exotic and native, an opportunity exists to provide a planting strategy that strengthens this intersection. At the heart of the campus is the Wairaka Stream, with its existing riparian vegetation and culturally sacred significance.  Acting as a backdrop to this is the Victorian tenet of an arboretum.  Embedded within these two overarching existing conditions are a number of culturally derived more subtle typologies, for example, the sacred Pā Harakeke (flax, Phormium tenax, plantation), and the repeated use of the Metrosideros excelsa (pōhutukawa).
The proposed scheme draws on the single species massed planting idea, found in the Pā Harakeke, and develops this through the use of significant stands of Dacrycarpus dacrydioides (kahikatea) around the riparian areas and repeated, large stands of native Agathis australis (kauri) lending the Eastern edge grandeur, interest and a sense of arrival. The mass planting of this iconic tree has a sound environmental rationale - as kauri dieback19 ravages the species in its natural habitat, it is a form of survival insurance.
In the manner of Piet Oudolf, distinguished planting designer, who states, “every [plant] name I see is a face”22when he talks of the plants he choses for his designs, the species in this case (the iconic kauri and the towering kahikatea) conjure up cultural memories and associations.  The kauri with its primeval timeless magnificence, yet fragile and threatened existence due to its colonial devastation, and the more recent threat of disease, is used in order to remind us of the unique beauty of a past time.  And the Kahikatea, seen in brooding clumps across the Waikato planes, reminding us of the ecological importance of vegetation and also a pre-European history.  Artist George Foster (1745-1794), who sailed with Captain James Cook, observed there were,
‘…antediluvian forests [and] numerous rills of water…transformed into a sward of sun- parched English pasture….'23

The clumps of Kahikatea are a reminder of what is lost and what once was.   
The campus itself is a place for people, a place steeped in cultural history. The idea that there are ‘cultural keystone species’, that is, “plants...that form the contextual underpinnings of a culture”24is at the forefront of the scheme.  Ann Garibaldi principle at Integral Ecology Group and Nancy Turner, Trudeau Fellow at the University of Victoria, in their paper Cultural Keystone Species explain,

‘Just as certain species of plants or animals appear to exhibit a particularly large influence on the ecosystem they inhabit, the same is true in social systems. We have termed these organisms “cultural keystone species” and define them as the culturally salient species that shape in a major way the cultural identity of a people, as reflected in the fundamental roles these species have in diet, materials, medicine, and/or spiritual practices'25

‘Unlike ecological keystones, whose identity hinges on the expected ecological influence of a species relative to its biomass, the main criterion for a cultural keystone species is its key role in defining cultural identity...'26


The aforementioned schemes demonstrate a relatively straightforward, although for some still contentious , negotiation between naturalised exotics and native vegetation.  An example, which is unbalanced, establishes the more extreme end of the spectrum where the exotic/native intersection has negative ramifications.  What happens when divergence involves the accidental introduction of an invasive species?
In 2015 a small population of the Queensland fruit fly (Bactrocera tryoni) was found in the Auckland suburb of Grey Lynn.
Queensland fruit fly [a native of Australia] is one of the most damaging fruit fly pests as it infests more than 100 species of fruit and vegetables. Hosts include commercial crops such as avocado, citrus, feijoa, grape, peppers, persimmon, pipfruit, and summerfruit.
If this fly were to establish here, it would have serious consequences for New Zealand’s horticultural industry.28
There could also be serious consequences for New Zealand’s endemic flora and fauna.
For example, the following interdependent community of species could be under threat: the endemic taraire tree (Beilschmiedia tarairi); the endangered and endemic kererū (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae) that feed on and disperse taraire fruit; and the lichen Strigula novae-zealandiae, which is found only on taraire.  
Literature on the impact of larvae on avian food sources is divided:
‘Avian seed dispersers have been shown to reject fruits infested by insect frugivores, disadvantaging plant fitness by reducing seed dispersal (Manzur and Courtney 1984, Krischik et al. 1989, Traveset 1993, Garcia 1998, Garcia et al. 1999)'.29  
‘… fruit infested by insect frugivores may attract vertebrate frugivores because infested fruits are more nutritious (Piper 1986, Drew 1988). Brown pigeons (Macropygia amboinensis) a major consumer of, and seed disperser for wild tobacco (Solanum mauritianum), were suggested to selectively forage for fruits infested with Bactrocera cacuminata larvae (Drew 1987).'30
Certainly, it is known that larvae infested fruit are prone to accelerated ripening and fall to the ground.   Whist kererū occasionally feed on the ground arboreal foraging is more common.

What if the kererū avoided larvae infested fruit or was disinclined to feed on the ground?  The bird, which under normal circumstances feeds on the ripe drupes and then relocate and deposit seed, lose a food source; germination of taraire would be compromised; and finally, the lichen suffers a primary cause of species extinction, habitat loss.


The nature of these projects reflects a desire to deliver a fusion, and perhaps be less distinctive about a perceived ‘native’ and ‘exotic’ dichotomy.  The thinking around the case studies is less about the problematic ideology of native verses exotic and more to do with added value and a cultural contribution to the character of the regions.
It is perhaps true then, that the Queensland fruit fly example establishes the more extreme end of the spectrum where the exotic/native relationship is viewed as an adversarial one.  This view is often broadcast through the fourth estate, which is entrusted with the vitally important responsibility to educate.  This in itself, can have an impact on the development and social understanding of the culture surrounding exotics and natives, as well as on occasion be an imperative to protect biodiversity.  The ensuing sensation has the potential to obfuscate the more subtle and enriching dimension of a native and exotic fusion.
The schemes by and large demonstrate divergence through the dynamic juxtaposition of diverse taxonomy.  This approach with its inherent contrast amplifies unique qualities.  The protagonists, exotic and native, are offset with their differences magnified.
It is a fact that in New Zealand there is a strong colonial inheritance, landscape examples are, the iconic features of Otago, Kawau Island, Albert Park, Western Park, and indeed Grey Lynn Park.  It is an inheritance that along with the considered introduction of additional exotics can provide an enriching dimension against the backdrop of native biota.  
With the approach illustrated in the case studies, planting strategies can perhaps become catalysts for a commentary associated with togetherness and add to the discourse around the idea of ‘belonging’. A hybrid approach to the design of planting schemes could continue to develop, within New Zealand, a sense of ‘togetherness’.  
The planting schemes described in the body of this text are as much a reflection of the way society contemplates a place in the world, as the planting designs are in themselves an aesthetic encounter.  Balance then, rather than polemics and extremes should be sought.



Dr.Diane Menzies

Ngāti Kahungungu, Ngāti Whatui Apiti

PHD Lincoln, MBA Canty, MBUS:Dispute Resolution Massey, DIP LA Lincoln, DIP Hort (Dist)Lincoln, Life Member NZILA, Hon Member IFLA, ALACIS(Russia), International Member ASLA(USA), ONZM, Dep Chair Ngā Aho, Landcult LTD.

Alayna Renata

Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Tūwharetoa ki Kawerau

BLA hons, Dip Māori, Cert. Iwi Env. Manager
Queensland University of Technology.

Desna Whaanga-Schollum

Ngāti Rongomaiwahine, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Pahauwera

DWS Creative, Chair Ngā Aho








Landscape is a cultural construct and the principles and practice of the profession have been inextricably entwined with an Anglo-American or Western construct of landscape since the profession’s inception over 100 years ago. Western practitioners have been slow to recognise the culturally constructed aspect of the term landscape (Makhzoumi 2002, Menzies 2015). In addition: there is very limited comprehension among the wider public or even allied professions, that the understandings and perceptions which people hold about nature and landscape (Harrison and Burgess 1994) are developed through social interactions, and that landscape is about people and their perceptions: landscape is not solely an object (European Landscape Convention signed 2000, Menzies, 2015).
The Anglo-American culture also resonates with the positivistic, scientific approach to knowledge, which ‘is thought to be rational and goal oriented, understanding the world as a single ordered whole with universal principles,’ and where ‘humans are superior to the animal world, living with nature’ (Jang 2004). By contrast Indigenous knowledge may adopt a more experiential, belief approach to knowledge, with an emphasis on the unique rather than transcendental principles, and with the human being at one with and in nature. There is generally no hierarchical separation between animals and humans: animals are acknowledged as sentient beings with an essential role within an eco-philosophical paradigm. There is respect and an expectation of reciprocity for interactions between the metaphysical aspects of nature and all creatures and physical entities within the world. The words spirit and passion might be expected in indigenous dialogue, but are infrequent in a scientific discourse.

This paper examines two apparently contrasting approaches, their commonalities, and how they might be effectively aligned to inform a richer and more vibrant profession. One approach is the scientific, largely Anglo-American or Western approach with its emphasis on the physical, verifiable, and quantifiable objects, and described systems such as eco-systems. While scientific theories change as do ‘proofs’ and what are ‘facts,’ theories are amenable to different understandings. The second approach is the values-centred, experiential cultural approach which may occur in the West, is more frequently a feature of Eastern cultures and for the purposes of this paper, is an indigenous cultural approach. Metaphysical entities and personification of landscapes may seem incompatible with ecological systems. However, through addressing alignments in these systems, belief systems and eco-systems hold prospect of being integrated. Each system has evolved through observation of natural phenomena over extended time frames. Eco-systems and belief systems have a series of overlapping fundamentals, with both giving consideration to how the living engage with their non-living environment as well as the inherent role of creation and energy, be it abiotic or spiritual. Both systems also acknowledge the cyclical basis of human existence. Eco-systems and belief systems present values frameworks which can be addressed in cross-cultural environmental understanding and management. Examples where this opportunity has been provided for in New Zealand’s resource management law, and tribal contributions to dialogue, are discussed in the context of contemporary indigenous values and ecosystems management.

This paper puts a focus on the indigenous as it is this broad cultural value set which is given less recognition and is frequently considered as a less acceptable knowledge base (often denigrated and marginalized), in the dominant hegemonic approach to knowledge (Akhtar 2015).  The paper first explores characteristics of indigenous knowledge, beliefs and values and how they have been recognised in New Zealand. However, though there are legal frameworks referring to tribal belief systems in New Zealand and other places, practical translation of these in environmental maintenance, management and use, still often falls short of regenerating fractured connections with land and cultural spirit. There is then an exploration of how theoretically the two approaches, positivistic ecosystems and traditional metaphysics might be brought together. A range of case studies where indigenous knowledge and ways of thinking are being adopted is then described. These are located within Anglo-American cultural constructs and design planning and practitioner frameworks. The case studies demonstrate how design thinking and practice within the urban context can assist cultural regeneration, through creating nurturing cities, vital custodianship and local well-being. Regeneration rather than concepts such as sustainability is emphasised. This is because indigenous cultures have long struggled for a voice and both require and deserve this, more than preservation or maintenance to survive, flourish and contribute to a vibrant future.
The role of education within the scientific communities and indigenous cultures could provide opportunities for social cohesion through shared and aligned values. Education both within and beyond the profession of landscape architecture could enable celebration of similarities between contemporary knowledge (science) and traditional understanding (belief systems) in an innovative manner.  

The conclusion is that through respectful cultural regeneration, rather than preservation, and design with aligned values, vibrant places and connected people, as well as a more secure future can be pursued. Change is addressed because the challenge lies with the landscape architecture profession: how can the profession achieve effective change-focused practice that encompasses passion, spirit and sound science? Can practitioners deconstruct practice through analysis and reframe or restructure meaning (Akhtar 2015) in order to explore assumptions and beliefs and identify strategies for change?



The following sets out meanings of the terms landscape, ecosystems (as a specialized example of the physical sciences) and indigenous belief systems, as well as identifying where attention lies, and where not. Landscape has different meanings depending on culture and context. As Spirn (1998 p. 15) writes: ‘The language of landscape is our native language.…. The language of landscape is a habit of mind.’ It is not the writers’ intention to modify culturally derived meanings of landscape, be they Western, Eastern or indigenous, taking a respectful view that such meanings are an important and valued aspect of a culture. The various meanings are significant to each specific culture, bound by arts, literature, philosophies and customs, have developed in some cases over millennia, and are still changing. Where a culture has considered landscape and people interactions for hundreds of years, there may be a rich array of terms for landscape, depending on the context, and no one term may directly translate to the Western understanding of landscape. Deriving or constructing a term which might cross cultures may have the same role as the ‘invented’ language Esparanto- it might perhaps enable communication but would not relate to a cultural construct. In other words, a constructed term may be adopted by enthusiasts, but be meaningless to cultures. The approach adopted is not to dominate any culture with a substitute or imposed term but to work to understand the different meanings of landscape, and build a richer professional understanding through this. Even in the Anglo-American cultures there are multiple meanings for landscape which need to be taken into account.

The term ecosystems as defined by Tansley in 1935 is: ‘an integrated system composed of interactive biotic and abiotic components.’  Ecosystems are about communities of organisms working in conjunction with non-living components of the environment. The components of ecosystems work together to produce emerging properties. As a system there is the implication that there are boundaries and there is a distinction between an ecosystem and its environment, that is the environment beyond the boundaries of the system, and all biotic and abiotic components within the system are directly or indirectly connected and interacting (Lovett, G. et al 2007). In addition, as Lovett explains, the scale of the ecosystem generally depends on its function and those studying or working with ecosystems are usually interested in functions and properties, such as a wetland. The properties of an ecosystem are identified as complex, open, hierarchically ordered, self-organising, and cycle energy and matter. As a whole system, be it tiny or large, a holistic understanding is needed (Lovett et al 2007). Detailed aspects of ecosystems are not examined, the science being adopted as an example of hegemonic understanding or knowledge which happens to be important to landscape architecture. Neither are functions or properties considered in any detail, rather than the holistic understanding necessary for these complex systems.
Culture is defined as ‘patterns of understanding that provide a basis for making one’s own behaviour sensible and meaningful’ (Morgan 1996 In Collins 1998, p. 117). In addition culture is understood as ‘the deeper levels of basic assumptions and beliefs that are shared… taken for granted.. learned responses to a group’s problem of survival,’ (Collins 1998, p. 108), including shared values and behaviour (Trompenaars 1993).
At first consideration the positivism philosophy or doctrinal approach to science rejects the metaphysical and holds that facts are to be scientifically verified or capable of logical proof. Beliefs by contrast are not amenable to proof. However, belief systems, being a set of mutually supportive beliefs, could in essence be beliefs about ecosystem processes (theory is still developing in this as well as other sciences). This is not intended to diminish ecosystems as a science rather than to draw commonalities.


Indigenous people possibly follow a similar cycle of understanding. Rather than focussing on biotic and abiotic factors as the starting point however, the emphasis for indigenous people is on creation. This creation is a form of energy from ‘Io’ or ‘Uha’ (for Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand), and the darkness, energy, spirituality and the pure essence of existence. Hence rather than a scientific underpinning of biotic/abiotic factors determining human existence, for many indigenous people, and including Māori, the driver is spirit. Ecosystems as noted above are also concerned with and cycle energy. Beyond this, the following three steps of understanding ecosystems knowledge are much the same as for belief systems. From energy/spirit/abiotic factors comes the production of landscape, consumption by people and decomposition which returns energy/spirit/biotic and abiotic factors back into the cycle.



While much has been written on ecology and ecosystems relevant to landscape architecture (as examples, Makhzoumi and Pungetti 1999; McDonnell, Hahs and Breuste 2009; Ignatieva 2011) the literature on indigenous knowledge and belief systems, as well as its relevance, is seldom broached in landscape architecture dialogue, and rarely together with ecosystems knowledge. There is strong encouragement though to do so. Delegates at the 2013 International Federation of Landscape Architects IFLA50 World Congress ratified the Tāmaki Makāurau Declaration 2013 (and as one of the four resolutions) stated:
‘We recognise traditional and indigenous knowledge and wisdom held by people of the world, which contributes to understanding landscape and can guide decision making at this time and for our shared future.’
Seven years ago an important conference was held in New Zealand on traditional knowledge. It was attended by speakers from Nepal to the Americas and also included participant groups from Australia and the Pacific. The three hundred pages of Proceedings, published in 2010 (Ngā Pae of te MāraramatangaNew Zealand’s Centre of Māori of Research Excellence) contains papers covering issues as broadly based as science, education, spirituality, peace, mediation, ethics and values, health and indigenous commonalities. Science, spirituality and beliefs (and their links) are now explored afresh for the landscape architecture profession. Indigenous knowledge has been well proven to provide a source of wisdom and ingenuity (Smith, In Ngā Pae o te Māraramatanga 2010) and indigenous belief systems have the capacity to assist with designing interventions or creating new strategies, thus of importance for science and ecosystems, but more particularly for the landscape architecture profession which has as its basis design practice.

Many of the speakers at the 2008 conference spoke of the tyranny and violence, as well as loss of land and identity from colonial oppression and of the fortitude needed to maintain their values and beliefs while challenging the dominant positivistic ‘reality’ of the West (Jackson; Pitman; Ojibway; EverettIn Ngā Pae o te Māraramatanga 2010).  The oppression felt because of a dominant culture’s values, is also an interpretation that landscape architects can take from our professions dependence on Western values. This paper seeks to bring two beliefs systems to a closer understanding, but in mutually supporting roles rather than either one in dominance. This is both timely and appropriate because ‘the search for knowledge should be a process for critical interrogation’ (Akhtar 2015).  
‘The articulation of knowledge is simply a process of story-telling’ whether it is ‘how to split the atom, it is a story’ and ‘if we have confidence and trust in our own knowledge systems, then we can traverse … anything ,.. religion, .. science, … intellect and passion, … reason and doubt’ (Jackson, Ngā Pae o te Māraramatanga 2010).  
‘All that is real is story,’ (Ojibway Ngā Pae o te Māraramatanga 2010).  Important to landscape architects are ‘the stories that are most relevant to a people and a community (and are), the stories that come from that land’ (Jackson, Ngā Pae o te Māraramatanga 2010).  
This indigenous knowledge, is understood as people belonging to the land, or tied with the land as one (Durie 2004; Sharples In Ngā Pae o te Māraramatanga 2010).

 ‘Māori understand land as Taonga Tuku Iho, a treasure passed down on the basis of whakapapa (genealogy), leadership and continual occupation, or Ahikāroa. Inherent in the concept of Ahikāroa, is not just authority over the land, but also the responsibility and obligations of guardianship of the land and to the past, present and future generations of people who have relationships with that land (Whaanga-Schollum, 2015).
While belief systems differ between indigenous clans, tribes and cultures, they start with creativity, be they dream-time songs, or stories; and the intimate relationship of people and the land.  Spiritual belief comes first in any consideration of indigenous knowledge systems (Waikerepuru Ngā Pae o te Māraramatanga). Spirit (wairua in Māori ) is in all things, the animate and inanimate. It is in a drop of water, in rain and in trees (Williams 2015).  Waikerepuru supported his contention by a proverb which admonishes people to understand all the universe, and genealogical relationships, and only then can people know enough to be able to deal with any issue:
Kia oti a runga, kia oti a raro, ka puta ai koe ki waho.  
Thus spirituality and belief systems are at the heart of indigenous knowledge, which has been built over millennia through observation and stories to explain creation and relationships.
Other professions and practices have already grappled with aspects of cultural constructs. One example is from the health sector: the Ministry of Health in New Zealand scoped the future of traditional healing following advocacy by health leaders (Durie 2004); to consider the place of traditional healing practices alongside scientific criteria based medicine and concluded: ‘traditional healing provides for a range of diagnostic and treatment modalities,’ as well as the support for culture (Ahuriri-Driscoll et al, In Ngā Pae o te Māraramatanga 2010). The education sector has also considered traditional responses to contemporary education questions and concluded that: ‘paying attention to solutions informed by indigenous knowledge can enable relevant and effective responses to emerge’ (Berryman and Bateman, In Ngā Pae o te Māraramatanga 2010). A third example is traditional knowledge alongside nanotechnologies. The conclusion was that they are compatible (Ramstad and Falkner, In Ngā Pae o te Māraramatanga 2010), confirming that:
‘This interface where differing world views come together, can be particularly fruitful for developing creative research, innovative approaches and new knowledge’ (Durie 2004).



There is legal recognition in New Zealand of Māori values. The basis for this is the founding Treaty of Waitangi, signed in 1840 between the Crown and chiefs of Māori tribes of New Zealand, which gave the Crown rights to govern and Māori full protection of their interest and status (Waitangi Tribunal). This has been interpreted in subsequent legislation as principles which must be taken into account. The land and people focused Resource Management Act 1999 (Ministry for the Environment) and its amendments identifies matters of national importance which must be recognised and provided for by decision makers, and while the list is extending every few years, Section 6 (e) includes:
‘the relationship of Māori and their culture and traditions with their ancestral lands, water, sites, waahi tapu, and other taonga’ (meaning sacred sites and other things precious).
The Resource Management Act covers all of New Zealand and is largely implemented through regional policies and plans for resource management, such as water, air and land, which is administered by Regional Councils. The use of land, which is managed through objectives, policies, plans and methods for implementation, is in turn administered by District Councils. These policies and plans are developed through a public participatory process which focuses on the effects of change, to produce documents which are complex, often cumbersome and are rife with inherent conflicting values. So while it might seem a straight forward matter to provide for Māori ancestral land and water values, the consideration of these alongside other issues is necessary to achieve the purpose of the legislation, which is sustainable management.

Māori have found participation in the process of contributing to developing and administering Regional and District plans difficult because their time and expertise is often in short supply, and when a project is mooted which conflicts with their values it may be an extremely costly business to defend values. For instance, even when neighbouring tribes and New Zealand’s Historic Places Trust were in agreement about the negative effects on Māori culture of a particular change proposal, a proposed expressway which cut through a graveyard north of Wellington (NZ Historic Places Trust 2012), the value of effective road alignment seemed to be thought more important for sustainable management by the New Zealand Courts. This example though provided hope and ideas for the future once parties achieved understanding through respectful dialogue, as our case study discussion indicates.
There have been a number of culturally important resource management cases where local Māori have contested a change proposal. Ngāi Tai, a Māori tribe living to the east of Auckland city, and other community groups, as well as the developer and the Regional Council, contested a development approval granted by the Manukau City Council to a Canal Housing Development in the Wairoa (Clevedon) River. The Environment Court found in the Māori and community appellants’ favour, with legal planning issues being determinative, and the development was halted (EnvC 211 2010).

Perhaps the only case where Māori beliefs and values have been determinative of a decision to turn down a development proposal where belief systems were at issue, was one where a large wind farm was proposed to be sited over a hill which is believed in Māori mythology to be an important canoe. Significant within Māori belief systems is the personification of the landscapes which often stems from a mythological understanding about how landforms were shaped. The actions of ancestors and their interaction with the natural environment are explained in a similar way to that for ecosystems; animals and other biotic and abiotic processes shape ecosystems. This contested issue, which was considered twice by the Environment Court, placed Māori traditional values against the values of renewable energy.
Progress towards greater recognition of Māori beliefs and values has been slow and costly for all participants and while some land is now being acquired by tribal groups through a Government settlement process to redress the land confiscations which previously occurred, cultural identity, and even language continue to be fragile and diminishing. In 2015 the Māori Language Commission, at the start of Māori Language Week, reported that surveys revealed the per cent of people who could converse in Māori had been steadily dropping.



 A number of Māori tribes have put resources into developing iwi (tribal) management plans which set out their beliefs and stories, as well as particular issues and opportunities. While these plans have no statutory weight, although they may be referred to in district plans, they can provide a focus for strengthening tribal identity and a means of preserving knowledge, as well as information for those wishing to understand local relationships and values. They are not undertaken by all tribes, who may lack resources to develop such plans, chose not to, or have different priorities; and their acceptance has been limited. However, greater attention to such plans by decision makers, developers, landscape architects and other practitioners could be a catalyst to much improved dialogue. They are certainly a first port of call in setting out to understand another culture’s values, in instances when they have been prepared.
Another means to increase understanding, before developing ways of bringing the two belief systems together, is to build cultural capacity within a profession. Practitioners may be planning and designing for an indigenous client, or designing for a community which includes a range of cultures (and if it does not now, anticipation of changing cultural populations could build in resilience for design), or there may be a need to recognise the landscapes valued by indigenous communities. These are three reasons, among others, that encourage capacity building by a profession. At a minimum, that in turn requires some familiarity with a culture and their local groups’ customs; in meeting and building relationships, and understanding their values and beliefs, places of significance, principles, and techniques of engagement. Consideration of case studies which demonstrate the development of partnership: what has been successful and what has not, also provides initial information.

Landscape Architects in New Zealand, through the New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects (NZILA) held three capacity building seminars, following examples of capacity building developed by planners and other professions. Monitoring the success of such events and extending their reach and level of knowledge would be ways of sustaining commitment to change.
Professional strategies can also enable better understanding of indigenous belief systems. From the experience of trying to bring about change in the face of cultural resistance, small steps which provide for incentives, and can be achieved and built on are a better means to embed change than ambitious plans with limited follow through.
The New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects have recently developed a Bicultural Strategy. They stated:
‘It is intended that by developing a Bicultural Strategy, the NZILA will take a leadership role for promoting and meaningfully expressing kaupapa Māori (Māori philosophy) in the landscape architecture profession providing for a more inclusive bicultural landscape architecture practice appropriate to Aotearoa/New Zealand which better recognises Te Ao Māori (the Māori worldview).
They also noted:
‘The adoption of this Bicultural Strategy will for some require a shift from the traditional western based design and planning approach to include Te Ao Māori values and protocols.  In this paradigm, landscape architects will have a willingness and confidence to incorporate kaupapa Māori ( Māori policy) into everyday knowledge and practice.  Through the adoption of the Bicultural Strategy and ongoing reviews, the NZILA has demonstrated a willingness and commitment to strengthening the knowledge and understanding of kaupapa Māori through leadership, promotion and education’ (McBain 2015).
As part of this strategy the New Zealand Institute conducted a detailed review of educational knowledge relevant to the profession and now include a number of aspects of mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge), for inclusion in the curriculum and for assessment during university accreditation reviews. As previously indicated, change is encouraged by incentives (more effectively than penalties) and providing for awards, media recognition, points towards Continuing Professional Development, and other regular means for the profession to assign value to change is important.
Building closer links between ecosystems and indigenous belief systems would be hollow if communication with indigenous groups was not entered into in a humble and respectful manner. Building relationships surely must be a priority in any strategy for change. One way is to join in celebration of events or traditions when that is appropriate. As nations celebrate the festivals important for their country, so too should professions and institutes encourage dialogue by celebrating indigenous New Year (Matariki in New Zealand) or other events. Simply getting to know each other through regular joint activities is an even better way to build relationships.

Another approach for enhancing understanding of another culture is through examination of the gap between aspiration and action. All too often positive aims and sentiments might be expressed, such as through District Plans, but very little action follows. The Auckland Council set up an Independent Māori Statutory Board as part of its change action and the Board contracted the services of a respected accounting and management firm to identify what planning goals relevant to indigenous values were being achieved, and what resources were required to achieve goals where success was short. This was quantified in both planning and monetary terms and the funding then sought to achieve the goals.
All these initiatives could assist the better understanding of indigenous cultures so that, without in any way diminishing each culture, there is a better cultural dialogue and hence a better link between science systems and belief systems.


Six case studies are described with the objective of demonstrating how in different contexts and with various objectives, western and indigenous (Māori) constructs and thinking can be brought together to achieve a much better outcome. With this understanding practitioners and designers can take the lessons learnt and consider how they can be applied in local contexts. The first case study is considered in some detail, remembering that every context is different, particularly the history, people, politics, law, beliefs and landscape. However each of the case studies has aspects of similarity. For instance the technique of hikoi, walking the site with the relevant people, was adopted in the first case study and is described as a technique in the second.


6.1: Taking the initiative: Takamore Trustees and NZ Transport Agency

Some 75 years ago the government identified a road corridor in order to bypass a coastal town. The objective was to construct a new motorway which was unimpeded by ‘side friction’, identified as traffic from access roads originating from local suburbs, travelling to the township along the state highway. The corridor, which passed through open rolling pasture which had been developed over dune lands and swamps behind the coastal fore-dune, was to provide for a better and more efficient connection between the capital city, and cities to the north. There was no consultation with affected parties when this alignment was planned. No further action was taken until the road agency applied for planning approval for an expressway, generally following the corridor, in the 1990’s. The decision maker, the Kāpiti Coast District Council (KCDC), approved the proposal but a number of different groups opposed their decision and took the matter to the New Zealand Environment Court. This Court considers such appeals afresh based on evidence produced, and the law.
Prior to their decision to approve the expressway KCDC had agreed to recognise an historic Māori burial ground as identified by the (then) NZ Historic Places Trust. The burial ground was located within the expressway alignment, but KCDC had not addressed the conflict this caused. In addition KCDC had successively granted applications for suburban development on land previously used as farmland and open space, either side of the road alignment, thus limiting flexibility to modify the proposed corridor either to the west or east. One of the participants in this appeal was the Takamore Trustees who, along with the Runanga o Te Atiawa ki Whakarongotai Inc (a tribal group) were representatives of Māori who had called the broad coastal area home for hundreds of years prior to European settlement. Takamore Trustees accepted a duty of stewardship of the land in general through their customary values (as did other tribal groups), and in particular for a small identified and fenced area of the burial ground which they held in Trust. Relationships with KCDC had not been harmonious and the Trustees were generally mistrustful of the Council. There was a rift in understanding of cultural values and the Trustees in turn had been unable to understand the role of KCDC. Four expensive and time consuming Court hearings later, the expressway was approved by the Courts and all parties were bruised by the experience.

However, there had been some changes during the ten or so years that the Court appeals were conducted. A new mayor had been elected to KCDC who was more empathetic to the cultural values of the Trustees, and parties had grown in understanding. In addition the High Court had directed that the parties collaborate to address their differences. Takamore Trustees resolved to take the initiative and entered into discussions with the Council to obtain the best outcome in the circumstances. While the alignment proposed was devastating to the values held by the Trustees and in their view no amount of mitigation could address this, they and the Council made a genuine attempt to understand each other’s values. In addition, a new government had identified ‘Roads of National Importance’ and the Trustees also set out to negotiate with the government road authority, the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA). The Trustees set out to communicate their connections with the land to NZTA in terms that the transport agency could understand. The Trustees led walks over the land with the NZTA representatives, explaining their love of the land in human terms, and demonstrated a willingness to work and remove obstacles together. The Trustees were solutions rather than issues focused. A small ‘window’ of land enabling the road alignment to be pushed somewhat away from the Takamore land was recognised. Although that movement of the corridor was not to the amount of change the Trustees sought, they recognised that NZTA were empathetic, and close communication built between the parties, which has helped to resolve new issues as they arise. The Trustees now have an ongoing and they anticipate, enduring relationship with NZTA.

A mitigation package has enabled an expanded area of Trustee land. Land alongside the burial ground was purchased by KCDC, and returned to the Trustees by NZTA as part of the mitigation package. The Trustees seek to maintain this as a natural landscape and are working with the Department of Conservation in order to have the land jointly managed as an Historic Reserve. In addition another burial ground, currently owned by developers but unable to be developed, is under discussion for protection for the Trustees, as a ‘cultural facility.’
Summary:  Mutual respect and communication, including each other’s vision, focusing on solutions, and walking the land together all enabled collaboration and innovative outcomes to bring the community together. Respectful dialogue is critical and while science (such as in this context wetland and dune ecology, engineering or archaeology) can provide information, communication is more important. Much more historic information has also been gained, which is of cultural value.

6.2: Collaboration and learning by hikoi (pilgrimage or walk):

Reconnecting people with the environment through visiting environmental sites of significance, sites for regeneration, or assessing landscapes for future change proposals enables collaboration and sharing values.  This approach is a discovery or rediscovery of land through walking it with those who have a role in its future, have connections, and may have differing science and cultural based values. Dialogue during that walk enables better understanding of both the science and spiritual aspects of the site, and how change might affect the land and people.  The technique regenerates a personal relationship with the landscape. Examples where this has been undertaken are: Sites of Significance research done with a hapū of Rongomaiwahine iwi (Desna Whaanga-Schollum); research for tribal groups with Victoria University (Penny Allan and Dr Huhana Smith), investigation for future residential development with Unitec students, Auckland (Diane Menzies) and of local places with Ngā Aho Māori designers network).

6.3:   Values, people and science: mahinga kai (food gathering) projects: Ngāi Tahu, universities, community

Through research and the collaboration of science experts, local leaders and community groups, regeneration of damaged wetlands and lakes can lead to better species and landscape health, the regeneration of spirit of place, as well as a reinstated food source for local people. Travis Swamp, Christchurch was partly protected and had been enhanced as a wetland reserve by community groups and the Christchurch City Council prior to the destructive impact and later swarm of over 15000 earthquakes in Christchurch from 2011 onwards. Housing development that had been permitted in the wetland area was ‘red zoned’ (identified as land unsuitable for housing) and a collaborative project is now underway applying ecosystems regeneration knowledge offered by Canterbury University, and cultural and community values. Another land, lake and sea focused project, at Wairewa near a local village (Ngāti Irikēhu and Lincoln University) is the Mahinga Kai Cultural Park. 

6. 4: Auckland Design Manual and Te Aranga Principles: Auckland Design Office.  

Ngā Aho developed a set of principles which might be adopted for consideration of Māori values during landscape change. Mana whenua, that is local Māori tribes having authorities and responsibilities, supported the adoption of these principles which Auckland Council set out in planning documents and guidelines.  These principles have also been adopted by consultants (for instance Jasmax firm), community and professional groups and is being disseminated throughout New Zealand.
In addition, a particular aspect of design investigation by the Auckland Design office, termed Urban Mauri - ‘Design begins in Wānanga’ (forum and discussion) has developed techniques for putting tikanga (customs and protocol) into contemporary practice. This investigation is based on Māori world views, principles and frameworks. It has addressed the question of how to shift the current combative and often mono-cultural paradigm of council and developer ‘consultation’ models to an enhanced co-designed approach.


6.5: Integrated public artworks (landscape / architecture):  

Work recognizing the previous eco-system within an urban context – which has been built over, as well as the cultural values of local people, can help to enhance understanding and bring people together. An example is the large public artwork in Papakura, Auckland which tells the story of the previous ecological landscape, from Pukekiwiriki Pā through bush wetlands, to the sea (Manukau Harbour). Another is the City Walk project in Christchurch, which is led by Matapopore, a Charitable Trust held by Te Ngāi Tūāhuiriri. A series of central city ‘anchor’ projects have been set up to represent cultural values as part of post-earthquake redevelopment.
6.6:  State of the Takiwā  (territory).
A number of investigations have been undertaken on aspects of land health and management, combining science and spiritual/cultural values. One example is the study of Indigenous Agroecology examining stream health on Tai Porutu Farms (Ataria 2014).  Another project is the online review of the State of the Takiwā by Ngai Tahu tribe.


A first step to reconciling or bringing together these differing constructs is through the identification of commonalities in each way of thinking, drawing on mutual human development. There is frequently a surprising degree of fear of engagement in such conceptual issues, and every means to break down these barriers using mutually understood terms, language and stories can be helpful. The conceptual diagram (Figure 2) has demonstrated that there are similarities in systems thinking and this needs further elaboration in work between parties in a range of circumstances. Indigenous management plans, legal support, and case studies which identify strategies for success, can also be helpful.
Education is an essential basis in this process, through dialogue, relationships and learning more about each other. ‘Dialogue means joining the struggle with as much goodness, strength and wisdom as we can demonstrate,’ (Reeves In Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga 2010 ). There is a frequent temptation to avoid collaboration with another culture through mistrust, misunderstanding and lack of perception of a professional priority. However, ‘we have to be prepared to engage with people we do not normally enjoy hearing,’ (Reeves p 116). In addition cultural conflicts and objectives need to be clear (although not at the expense of listening).  For instance, should the language of a culture be used in engagement when that is well understood only within the one culture (and how does this fit with the urgent need to maintain and regenerate language and customs within the other culture?). Should one culture be offended by the ignorance of values of the other culture? These and other issues need to be carefully explored with respect to barriers to dialogue.
What are the consequences and benefits for landscape practice? Professional strategies for change include building cultural capacity through seminars, meetings and engagement with cultures, celebrating with them and supporting their endeavours to keep the culture alive. The very act of engagement in other belief systems has been resisted by the bulk of the landscape architecture profession and multiple incentives are now advocated to achieve change. Critical reflection is often a luxury in the hubbub and complexity of community dialogue and economic pressures. However, the alignment with ethics and values is a useful step in considering how spirit can be perceived in everything and love of land and landscape can be comprehended in different ways.


Regeneration is an essential approach to addressing the alignment of beliefs and values. Where one form of belief has been dominant for an extended time, more than protection is needed in order to encourage different ways of thinking to flourish in mutual respect. The case studies elaborated demonstrate that work by other professions and participants are achieving beneficial and resilient outcomes, often in the face of diversity. It is now the opportunity of the landscape architecture profession to demonstrate that they have a vital role to play in the dialogue between science and culture, ecosystems and belief systems, and how this in turn can lead to more resilient outcomes.
Goodwill is essential in such work. Perceived offences need to be put to one side and innovative solutions found so that the profession can be a leader in this essential link between people and land, culture and values. Such an undertaking must be approached with an open mind as scientific discovery is an acceptance and respect for different ways of knowing. Sir Paul Reeves, an respected leader stated: Differences and diversity are sources of strength and inspiration,’ (Reeves In Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga 2010).


Environment: How we perceive it determines outcomes

Mark Lowe

MSc, CEnvP

Morphum Environmental





How society perceives the environment influences the weighting it is given relative to social, cultural, and economic values (Davoudi, 2012). Therefore, how the environment is perceived influences environmental outcomes and society’s ability to resolve environmental issues (Botkin, 1990). Davoudi discusses eight paradigms of the term ‘environment’ within the English planning context. This essay aims to discuss how the paradigms align with the New Zealand planning context and how the discussion by Davoudi can guide future environmental management. It is suggested that the paradigms identified by Davoudi exist within the New Zealand planning context (Table 1 gives examples). However, a key difference is the emphasis placed on the cultural significance of intrinsic values in New Zealand. It is also suggested that future environmental management can be improved by acknowledging both the positive and negative aspects of the paradigms.


The paradigms identified by Davoudi (2012) are not necessarily chronological, complimentary, nor discrete, but rather multilayered. In discussing natural environment paradigms the focus of Davoudi’s discussion is inherently centred on how humans perceive nature. Davoudi also suggests that the recent planning responses to climate change have resurrected older planning paradigms where the ‘environment’ is viewed as a risk to humans that needs to be controlled.
Conacher and Conacher (2000) suggest there is often confusion between the terms ‘resource’ and ‘environment’ and that the environment must be defined in relation to something. It is assumed the ‘environment’ Davoudi (2012) discusses is in relation to the natural environment (rather than the cultural environment for example). Furthermore, it is assumed the natural environment encompasses the material world as a whole (including natural resources, biodiversity, aesthetic values, ecosystem services, and intrinsic natural values) as described by Marshall (1994).

The New Zealand examples provided in Table 1 illustrate the paradigms identified by Davoudi (2012) can be found within the context of the New Zealand planning framework. McNeill (2016) asserts that the perception of the environment in New Zealand has changed over time. Older legislation often emphasised the passive value of nature; legislation of the 1980’s and 1990’s predominantly viewed the environment as a resource for human use; and, more recently, legislation seeks to recognise the intrinsic value of the environment (McNeill, 2016). These changes support the presence of many of Davoudi’s paradigms within the New Zealand planning context.

A key difference between the English and New Zealand contexts is apparent in the interpretation of the environment as a ‘nature reserve’. The nature reserve paradigm views humans as part of the natural environment and the outcome sought is to protect it for its intrinsic values. However, the discussion by Davoudi (2012) does not explicitly consider the cultural significance of intrinsic environmental values in the view of indigenous people.
How indigenous groups perceive the environment can be in conflict with ‘traditional western’ paradigms (Horsley, 1989; Tomas, 2011). Indigenous groups offer unique perspectives that are often based on a relationship with the environment, rather than consumption of resources, centred in a deep connection to nature (Beverly, 2015). Additionally, environmental impacts can result in a loss of cultural identity, and emotional and spiritual connection to the environment for indigenous groups (Mccarthy, Hepburn, Scott, Schweikert, Turner, & Moller, 2014). None of the paradigms identified by Davoudi (2012) reflect the spiritual and cultural perspectives of Indigenous groups. Although a true ecocentric paradigm should disregard any human value system; the perspectives of indigenous people do assist the interpretation of ecocentric paradigms through acknowledging the complexity and integrated nature of the environment.

Arguably, despite the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, wide recognition of its place in the New Zealand constitution did not occur until the 1980’s (Gow, 2014). Further advances in recognising indigenous perspectives have been made since this time. The Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) seeks to integrate and acknowledge the cultural values of Maori and the way in which Maori view the natural environment. Section 7 of the RMA (other matters) acknowledges kaitiakitanga, while section 6 of the RMA (matters of national importance) seeks the protection of protected customary rights. More recently iwi co-governance frameworks have been established, such as the Waikato River Authority (McNeill, 2008, p. 100-101; McNeill, 2011, p. 125-128). In addition, decision support tools for viewing and assessing the indigenous paradigm, such as the Mauri Model, have been developed and used (Morgan, 2006; Faaui, & Morgan, 2015).

Guidance for Future Environmental Management

Viewing Multiple Paradigms

No single paradigm offered by Davoudi (2012) reflects the complexity of the natural environment. Davoudi acknowledges that the eight paradigms identified are not mutually exclusive. However, Davoudi also suggests that the relatively recent sustainability paradigm is becoming overshadowed by the climate change paradigm, thus suggesting there is a hierarchy of dominance within the paradigms. Similarly, McNeill (2016) states the dominant view of nature as a resource has not halted the degradation of much of New Zealand’s natural environment. Environmental management can be improved through society and planning practitioners attempting to see the natural environment through multiple paradigms, while not favouring any given paradigm, or set of paradigms. In this way we may better reflect the complexity of nature. This approach is touched on by Bromley (1987) who suggests that environmental policy should search for the balance between ‘leaving it to the market’ (tradable commodity paradigm) and collective decision making. Finally, it is important that society and planning practitioners continue to accept and acknowledge the different paradigms of indigenous people and other diverse social groups, because doing so ensures a more balanced view of the natural environment is considered.

Focus on the Causes

Given that the natural environment provides the life-supporting capacity required for human survival, the way in which society views the natural environment impacts on the continued existence of the human race. A study by Meadows, Randers, & Behrens (1972) concluded that environmental management is not just desirable, but, a requirement for the survival of humans. However, Newton and Freyfogle (2005) frame this issue differently, stating that:
“our prime responsibility is not for nature, for the future, or even for our own survival. It is for our own behaviour. Because our behaviour is causing our problems, ourgoal should be to make it, and ourselves better” (Newton and Freyfogle, 2005).
The stance taken by Newton and Freyfogle (2005) focuses our attention on the cause of environmental issues, rather than the issues themselves. This focus is not captured in Davoudi’s paradigms (other than possibly partly in the ‘problem’ and ‘sustainability’ paradigms). Therefore, developing a paradigm that focuses on the cause of environmental issues being human behaviour, may provide for the development of better environmental management solutions.
Projected Ecocentric Views
It is important to consider that an ecocentric paradigm is still ‘projected’ (or originates) from the human viewpoint (Rowe, 1994). This projected ecocentric view, coupled with the complexity of ecological systems, requires that a precautionary principle is adopted when assessing environmental impacts (Selman, 1996). The projected nature of an ecocentric view also means planning practitioners should question if environmental values are completely accounted for when weighing up the four well-beings (cultural, environmental, economic and social). This idea is partly acknowledged by Davoudi (2012) in stating that while each of the paradigms identified has its own particular history and trajectory, an anthropocentric view of nature binds them together. This may also suggest that Davoudi views the paradigm of the environment as a ‘nature reserve’ as somewhat anthropocentric.



In conclusion, the paradigms discussed by Davoudi (2012) are apparent in the New Zealand planning framework, with a key difference being in the emphasis placed on the cultural significance of environmental values in New Zealand. In addition, improvements in environmental management can be achieved by considering the way in which the natural environment is viewed. Firstly, through recognition of the differing paradigms of the natural environment. Society and planning practitioners must acknowledge that these paradigms are multilayered, while also acknowledging that no one view is correct, thus attempting to view the natural environment through as many paradigms as possible. Secondly, planning practitioners should consider the human causes of environmental issues rather than solely addressing the symptoms. Finally, society and planning practitioners must be more cognisant that even ecocentric paradigms are projected from the human viewpoint.



Indigenous places: contestation of colonial landscapes

Dr Rebecca Kiddle

Ngāti Porou and Ngā Puhi


Cert. Professional Studies in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education University of Liverpool, UK (2015), PHD Urban Design Oxford Brookes University, Joint Centre for Urban Design, UK (2011), MA Urban Design Oxford Brookes University Joint Centre for Urban Design, UK (2006),BA Politics Victoria University of Wellington (1997).


Dr Diane Menzies

Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāti Whatui Apiti


PHD Lincoln, MBA Canty, MBUS: Dispute Resolution Massey, DIP LA Lincoln, DIP Hort (Dist) Lincoln, Life Member NZILA, Hon Member IFLA, ALACIS (Russia), International Member ASLA (USA), ONZM, Dep Chair Nga Aho.




Colonisation has had devastating outcomes for indigenous relationships with ancestral places and spaces. Māori in New Zealand, First Nations (Canada), Native American (USA) and Aboriginal (Australia) people share experiences of land theft and disassociation. The deeply destructive effect on indigenous cultures is all the more distressing because in contrast to Western conceptions of land ownership, indigenous metaphysical understandings of land shape personal and collective identities. Landscape, for instance, is part of Māori tribal genealogy: it is who we are. However in spite of both historical and more recent painful experiences of land loss, positive strategies for better place based recognition of our culture are being developed by Māori. Innovative projects are taking place in New Zealand for improved understandings of culture and community. Architects and landscape architects are each setting in place initiatives to upskill practitioners in Māori knowledge.

This paper draws on the history of placemaking in Aotearoa New Zealand outlining the ways in which placemaking has been used as one of the most effective tools of colonisation.  The case of Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki exemplifies the colonial recreation of the old world in a new place through the subjugation of sites of significance for indigenous people. However, hopeful endeavours by indigenous designers have served to turn the tide, working to decolonise our cities by promoting indigenous identities in the everyday urban places we inhabit.  

Key Words: Indigenous design, Landscape values, Space, Place associations, Identity.


1. The founding story


Polynesian voyagers settled in Aotearoa in approximately 1300AD (King, 2003:48). They brought their Polynesian culture to these Southern lands while maintaining connections across the Pacific to those landscapes which remained part of their genealogy; their cultural DNA. They brought their mountains, rivers and significant places with them through names which are found throughout the Pacific. They brought their belief that climatic elements, fauna, flora and landscapes held spirit (mauri), and represented gods. ‘The lands and waters are alive with beating hearts’ (Menzies and Ruru 2011:142). They brought their cultural belief that land was something that one belonged to and the principle of manaakitanga (hospitality) requiring that guests be treated with generosity.
European explorers arrived approximately 300 years later but left no lasting impact until the arrival of James Cook in 1769 (King, 2003:103).  Despite a number of meetings and confrontations between the indigenous people and these explorers, colonists effectively disregarded the ‘native savages’, dismissing their rights of first settlement.
The arrival of whalers, sealers and settlers was initially welcomed by Māori eager to trade, however, without government, increasing numbers turned to lawlessness to the dismay of local chiefs. Having then, no authority, the British government sought to gain control, agreeing the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 with Māori chiefs, which according to the Māori version, allowed the British to govern.  To the chiefs, this was understood, in part, to be a solution the problem of misbehaving sailors. The Treaty also afforded Māori sovereignty over their lands, forests and fisheries but in time, it was clear that these rights were not respected.
Thus colonisation advanced, expanding rapidly.  Soon settlers outnumbered Māori. Māori land was taken either through legal or unscrupulous purchase agreements or confiscated as punishment for not acquiescing to sometimes spurious rules and laws. In addition, the Māori population was decimated by new diseases brought by the colonists, for which they had no resistance.1
Other indigenous peoples in colonised countries have similar values and experiences. For example, the Cree of Canada have a humble relationship with their landscapes and value principles of hospitality and guardianship (Chakasim 2016). Their attachment to landscapes has a metaphysical dimension. Tlicho First Nation, Peguis First Nation and Nisga’a (Canada), and Gunditjmara (Australia) suffered the violence of cultural obliteration and ‘assimilation by education’ of their children in colonial residential schools (Chakasim 2016).  
Despite this loss of land and the spiritual and economic value land offers, indigenous people have proved resilient. Through the strength of their stories, a poignant education process with respect to their landscapes is now occurring.  Hopeful acts of resistance and renewal are taking place.

2. The Place is us


Māori identity springs from whakapapa (genealogy).  Genealogies may include reference to fauna such as sooty petrels, eels or whales, founding stories, spiritual and metaphysical connections, and important historical events involving ancestors. This identity is continually reinforced through mihimihi (words of greeting and introduction said at formal occasions or meetings).  These often include pepeha (personal connections with mountains, bodies of water and land) spoken as introduction. The mountain and water come first as symbols of permanence and life. Personal names are of least importance so are always offered up last. Our connections to our environment take primacy over all other markers of identification. The pepeha enables the making of tribal connections: people and events tie each person to a broader indigenous community, as well as place. The retelling of stories, songs and explanations of family histories reinforce these connections. We are the place and the place is us.  
This paper draws attention to the ways in which place and placemaking were used, and are still being used to colonise Māori in urban settings.  It explores a recent act of resilience led by Māori focused on decolonising Aotearoa New Zealand urban places through representations of the place in us.  

3. Placemaking as Colonisation


Placemaking in the 19th Century in Aotearoa New Zealand was dominated by the colonial agenda. Indigenous notions of place and identity were either misunderstood or disregarded.  The creation of ‘new’ places was stimulated by a design rationale predicated on the idea that these places should be re-created as better forms of the old world. Bell writes “colonists set out to transform the indigenous worlds they entered (‘new’ only to them) into their visions of a better version of the societies they had left” (Bell 2014, 14). Bell cites Gayatri Chekrovorty Spivak (1985) who adopts the term ‘worlding’ to describe these processes of demolition and construction performed by colonists to create these ‘new’ places.  “Settler colonization is a project of creating a new world, rather than a project based on the finding of one” (Ibid).  
Securing large tracts of land across New Zealand for new settlement, as outlined above, was key to colonial success and placemaking. To this end, the very existence of towns and cities are understood by some Māori as being ongoing painful reminders of what has been lost.  Further to this the process of renaming to legitimise claim to place or, as termed by Carter, ‘linguistic settlement’ (Carter 1987) reified colonial norms.  Anna Yeatman cited in Berg and Kearns states “naming is a form of norming” (Berg & Kearns 1996).  Names support hegemonic representations of place. “Names are part of both a symbolic and a material order that provides normality and legitimacy to those who dominate the politics of (place) representation” (Ibid, 99).
Move forward to today to an expanded colonial toolbox in a world in which cities and urban settlements are conceptualised as non-indigenous spaces. Indigeneity is primarily understood as a rural construct serving to erase indigeneity in urban settings.  This, despite the fact that most Māori live in cities: over 85% of Māori live in urban areas. There is a need to consider Māori values in urban spaces.  In addition, these current conceptions of urbanity deny the mana (authority) that particular tribal groups have over places that have since become urban. These conceptions have built up after years of land appropriation for the use of town and city formation and the ongoing disregard of key sites of indigenous identity.  
Finally, problematic local and central government land and region demarcations that dichotomise urban and rural landscapes in ways which do not correspond with iwi and hapū boundaries (Hoskins, 2008) have contributed to ongoing colonisation.  


4. Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki


The work currently taking place in Auckland with respect to Te Puke o Tara demonstrates a place-based example of decolonisation.
The history of Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki, a mana whenua group whose land sits in what is now called Auckland, illustrates starkly the impact of colonisation on landscapes and people. Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki have lived in Auckland for over 1000 years. Much of their tribal area has now been developed as suburbs, but they still retain strong spiritual connections and memories with this landscape while having lost ownership or ability to inhabit much of the land itself. Hoskins laments the impact of this physical disconnection on a sense of place:  
‘A Māori sense of place can be seen to be connected to both ‘rangatiratanga’ (the ability to exercise control over one’s environment) and ‘kaitiakitanga’ (the ability to exercise the stewardship of resources). When one’s control over the environment is progressively eroded, so in turn is one’s ability to act as kaitiaki for that environment. So one’s connection to the place becomes confined to an academic or at best spiritual level.’2
Te Puke o Tara, named after a famous early Polynesian explorer, was a volcano of comparable height to other volcanoes sacred to Māori in the region. Vast gardens flourished in the rich soils on the encircling flat plateau and sides. Te Puke o Tara was regarded as a bastion, guarding these trophy gardens. The gardens generously fed Ngāi Tai for many years, over the course of which they developed advanced gardening knowledge. The volcano was known to have echoed with dawn calls for blessings from Ngāi Tai spiritual leaders, and bird song. However, the constitutive value of this topographical monument was not recognised by European settlers. Instead the mountain was perceived as a convenient shingle supply and quarried for over 80 years for residential, road and other infrastructure development.  Having dug the volcano away to a steep, deep hole, the quarry was then adapted to a landfill; a convenient place to dump city rubbish.
Both quarrying and rubbish dumping activities were regarded as a huge offence by Ngāi Tai, an abuse of culture and an insult to the god of volcanos, Ruaumoko. In addition, many natural connections which enhanced the bio-diversity in the area were severed and bird life has slumped through loss of habitat, imported predators and pollution. Complete obliteration of this important landscape feature has resulted in loss of identity and separation from the landscape from which Ngāi Tai have been excluded for over 100 years.
The use of the site as landfill has nearly reached capacity and the site is to become a park. Today Ngāi Tai are to co-manage the site in conjunction with Auckland Council and are contributing to design plans. Their focus will be on the development of a habitat for birds as well as a recreation area that takes on a natural appearance. While currently named Greenmont Park, the tribe hope this will be replaced by an appropriate Māori name.
Whilst plans to co-manage the site with the local tribe are positive, this example indicates the lasting impact this disregard of Māori values, as they relate to our landscapes, have on indigenous communities. There is now little evidence that the site of several hectares was once a tall and sacred volcano.  
Despite the fact that colonisation and urban development has had, and continues to have, a negative impact on local tribes Māori communities are now building capacity to explore opportunities to redress the cultural pain and damage done, and reassert their place in the landscape (Brown, 2016).
So how might this building of capacity and redress happen?  How do we proceed? Veracini (2011, 180) writes, “as long as the decolonization of the settler colonial situation remains unresolved, settler colonial present and settler colonial past inevitably resemble each other”.

5. Decolonisation and Place


More strategically, is Ngā Aho a Māori-centric contestation of colonisation or, what Avril Bell might term, an indigenous strategy of “resistance and assertion[s] of autonomy and survival” (Bell 2014, 3). Ngā Aho is a professional network of Māori architects, landscape architects, designers, engineers and artists. Ngā Aho grew out of a desire to articulate and celebrate, in the world of design, architecture, landscape architecture etc., worldviews that were indigenous.
Health professions were perhaps the first to explore application of their discipline through a Māori lens, drawing on, and seeing with, Māori values and principles.  Mason Durie, a prominent Māori academic developed a seminal Māori-centric model of health and wellbeing (Durie, 2004) which has had a broad influence on other disciplines enabling wider recognition of the disadvantages inherent in a broad-brush Eurocentric approach to Māori issues. Often this Eurocentric mainstream approach is understood to be scientific and therefore rational and without bias as opposed to indigenous approaches which tend to draw on worldviews which are holistic in nature and therefore entertain the metaphysical.  This has often resulted in these ‘other’ worldviews being dismissed.  However, there is growing recognition, across a number of disciplines, that there are advantages to both Māori and non-Māori of indigenous ways of understanding the world.
In 2007/08, members of Ngā Aho developed and disseminated a set of principles to act as a basis for recognising Māori place based identity and values in towns and cities. Their catalyst was the production, by the Ministry for the Environment, of an Urban Design Protocol, which was a means to stimulate better urban design, but without mention of Māori values. The ‘Te Aranga Principles’ state:

‘As Māori we have a unique sense of our “landscape.”
It includes past, present and future.
It includes both physical and spiritual dimensions.
It is how we express ourselves in our environment.
It connects whanau [family] and whenua [land], flora and fauna, through whakapapa.
It does not disconnect urban from rural.
It transcends the boundaries of ‘land’scape into other ‘scapes’; rivers, lakes, ocean and sky.
It is enshrined in our whakapapa, pepeha [tribal saying], tauparapara [incantation to begin a speech], whaikōrero [a formal speech], karakia [ritual chants], waiata [song, chant], tikanga [correct procedure, custom, lore, method], ngā kōrero a kui ma, a koroua ma [the words of our elders] and our mahi toi [art and architecture].3 1
It is not just where we live – it is who we are!’4

The set of seven Te Aranga principles together with a description of how each might express Māori values and connections to place has been adopted by Māori with authority over Auckland landscapes (mana whenua) and is being implemented and explored as a device for identifying Māori-ness in this space by the Auckland Council (Auckland Design Office website, 2016).2 An example is the principle Mauri Tu which applies to environmental and community health. The Auckland Design Office website states for Mauri Tū:

‘Environmental health is protected, maintained and / or enhanced. …The application of this principle is suggested as:
•    Daylighting, restoration and planting of waterways
•    Contaminated areas of soil are remediated……..’ 5
With the support of the mana whenua of Auckland and encouragement of Ngā Aho, the Auckland Design Office has appointed their first Māori design advocate to investigate these principles and other ways to integrate and inculcate the unique association with place for Māori in Auckland (Auckland Council website, 2016).
Ngā Aho’s role extends beyond identifying key landscape management principles with members working in the fields of policy, planning, research, design, advocacy, professional support and education. As an article written for a publication associated with the 2016 Venice Biennale states:
Māori are committed to working towards reinstating and developing a physical and metaphysical understanding of cultural landscape within contemporary Aotearoa [New Zealand]... the society creates a multi-disciplinary professional cultural platform, to progress complex cultural issues which span economic, social and cultural concerns. This approach seeks to support wider Māori identity aspirations in an Aotearoa where we can clearly see ‘our faces in place’ (Whaanga-Schollum, 2016).

Recognising that working together is key to communication, Ngā Aho supports design professionals through the New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects as well as architecture, planning and other national design institutes. Ngā Aho’s work is measured but passionate, forthright but takes the Māori principle of generosity to inclusiveness, focusing on things Māori but welcoming the wider community. In addition, the network is embracing of other indigenous peoples through a biannual international indigenous conference I Te Timatanga, (Hooper, 2016) held at a traditional tribal meeting house most recently in February 2016; through a vigorous contribution to an economic sister city conference in Auckland in 2016, and through a wānanga (an in depth unstructured cultural meeting) with Cree professional representatives exploring community and urban mauri (spirit). Ngā Aho also recently facilitated the hosting of two meetings with Māori planning and design practitioners at the behest of the Productivity Commission (an independent Crown entity) to explore planning principles relevant to change for Māori.
The network facilitates leadership training for young artists and works within the tertiary education sector to enable Māori design students to be supported.  Research on space and place is also supported. Ngā Aho has a memorandum of understanding with the New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects, and is also working towards a similar agreement with other design based professional bodies such as the New Zealand Institute of Architects to encourage the promotion of a bicultural values approach to design.
These large and small steps serve to trouble colonisation in deliberate and meaningful ways.  

6. Back to Place


The fight-back for identity and place is one that requires patience and resilience but progress is being made. Māori and western culture are changing and adapting, finding ways of both accommodation and recognition. Practitioners in a range of disciples have previously failed to appreciate that there are other ways of thinking and knowing, and the work to change hearts and minds is slow and requires patience, tact and manaakitanga [generosity] to develop inclusive solutions to space and place matters. Despite the powerful colonising force that place-making has been in Aotearoa New Zealand, today there are exciting examples of how we might turn this on its head and turn placemaking into something generative and identity strengthening.
 This is our universe, our waka (canoe), and our future.



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3    Ibid, pp. 3-4

4    Ibid, pp. 3-4

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1See the following for fuller versions of this history Walker, Ranginui. 1990. Ka whawhai tonu matou: Struggle without end, Penguin Books; Orange, Claudia. The Treaty of Waitangi, Allen and Unwin, 1987

2 Hoskins, Rau. 2008. Cultural Landscapes In Re-thinking urban environments and health, Public Health Advisory Committee, September 2008, 30

3Missing from this text is mention of karanga, the call of the women, which is the first speech of ceremonial welcome.

4Whaanga-Schollum, D. Ed. 2008. Te Aranga Cultural Landscapes.

5     Auckland City Council. 2008. Te Aranga Cultural Landscapes, Edition 2.


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Rebecca Kiddle is Ngāti Porou and Ngā Puhi and is a Lecturer in Environmental Studies and Geography at Victoria University of Wellington in Aotearoa New Zealand.  Her background is in Urban Design and, in particular Māori Place Identity.   

Diane Menzies has links to Ngāti Kahungunu iwi and is a director of Landcult Ltd, a research and education consultancy. She was a Commissioner of the New Zealand Environment Court, and has a background in landscape architecture, resource management and mediation.