The concept of utilizing environmental indicators to assess environmental health has been around since the early 1990s, and the use of cultural indicators is now coming to the fore in international research. Cultural Indicators are derived from tangata whenua spiritual and survival patterns that were based on observation and obligation.
As early as 1991, the (then new) Ministry for the Environment sought expert advice on the potential role of Maori in this new era of environmental monitoring. That advice (Ward 1991) concluded that:
“A holistic approach to environmental monitoring cannot ignore social and cultural values. Traditional monitoring carried out by Maori people was an essential part of survival in New Zealand. They developed an in-depth understanding of the environment upon which they depended. Their traditional view of the environment reflects an integrated approach that needs to be incorporated into a national or regional monitoring system by involving Maori people in planning and decision making at the regional level. The Resource Management Act 1991 clearly expects consultation to occur between the takata whenua and local authorities. Maori people with traditional knowledge of the environment and an understanding of traditional environmental indicators need to be empowered to contribute to a bicultural monitoring system. Assurance of funding for any work undertaken and the provision of training programmes may be prerequisites for Maori input into this monitoring process”.
For multiple examples include iwi and hapu policy reports, biocultural monitoring reports, go to the Awatea Biocultural Monitoring page for document library and more.