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Maori and the land

MaoriAndTheLand1 pictureMaori have strong spiritual bonds to the land, Papatuanuku, the Earth Mother. She provides unity and identity to her people and sustains them. It is important that we protect our land and water from erosion, deforestation and inappropriate land use.

Maori consider that Papfatuanuku sustains all life, and that they are spiritually connected to her. This connection is shown when a baby is born and the whenua (after birth) is buried in a sacred site.

Māori regard land, soil and water as taonga (treasures). Māori are the kaitiaki (guardians) of these taonga, which provide a source of unity and identity for tangata whenua (local people).

The loss of ancestral lands is a key issue for Māori. Māori want to use their own land management systems to protect and enhance the land.

Soil as an important cultural resource

Soil resources are important for plant cultivation and for use as dyes. Kumara gardens were an important source of food. Māori added gravel to the soil used for growing kumara. Large areas of land were modified for food production, and many of the borrow pits (gravel excavation pits) are still visible today.

Maori carving buried in peat soil

Taonga (such as carvings) were stored in peat soils in wetlands to both hide and preserve them during times of trouble.

Soil also has an important cleansing role. Māori perceive that only by passing treated waste (such as farm effluent or treated sewage) through Papatuanuku can the mauri (life force) of water be restored.

Some tribal land is still covered with native forest. In other areas, Māori are concerned about environmental problems facing their lands. These include:

  • loss of forest cover on steep river headwaters increasing erosion, slumping and river siltation
  • inappropriate land use
  • landfilling
  • deforestation
  • the loss of soil quality for productive use.

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

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



Kaitiaki   Guardians
Kumara   Sweet potato
Mauri   Life force
Pa   Fortified village
Papatuanuku   Mother Earth
Tangata Whenua   People of the land
Taonga   Something prized or treasured
Whenua   After birth or placenta