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Māori and the air

To Maori, air is a taonga or treasure. The Waikato region generally has good air quality, but some areas experience air pollution. Maori are concerned about effects of pollutants on health, the environment and the spiritual values of other taonga.

Tekoteko, Whaingaroa (Raglan)

Air is viewed as a taonga derived from Ranginui (the sky father). Maori legend tells that following the separation of Ranginui and Papatuanuku (the earth mother) their child Tawhirimatea fled with Ranginui to his new home in the sky. From there Tawhirimatea controls the wind and elements.

Air pollution degrades and lessens the mauri or life-force of this taonga. It also affects the mauri of other taonga, for example plants and animals, as all living things need air and all things share the same air.

It’s important to Māori to exercise kaitiakitanga to protect and maintain the mauri of taonga.

Tangata whenua in the Waikato region are concerned about the health effects of:

  • the increasing emission of contaminants into the air
  • depletion of the ozone layer and high levels of solar radiation.

Māori are also concerned about the effects air pollution has on:

  • customary resources - plants and animals require clear and pure airways. Native plants provide food and natural medicines. In the past, the only thing that disturbed the natural quality of the air was the cooking fires of tupuna.
  • visibility - the moon, stars and rainbows are important in Māori mythology. The stars are particularly important as they represent the generations that have passed into the night. The movements of the moon and the lunar calendar help tell the time of year for sowing and harvesting
  • the spiritual values of waahi tapu and other taonga.

Find out more about Māori use and perspectives on management of the Waikato region’s resources in:

For policy information on Māori and the air check out our Regional Plan and our Regional Policy Statement.


Kaitiakitanga   Stewardship
Mauri   Life force
Taonga   Something prized or treasured
Tangata Whenua   People of the land
Tupuna   Ancestors
Waahi Tapu   Sacred site