The landscapes of Otago are peppered with memorials and meaning. Meaning comes from how people perceive and have perceived their surrounds through time. The passage of time, geographical features, heritage, memories, and cultural perspective, all conspire to produce what can be described as a cultural landscape. The landscapes of the Otago Region, New Zealand, are no exception.
Otago has a rich heritage of human occupation, with an emphasis placed on Otago’s colonial past in historical literature, also evident in the museums of the region. There are a plethora of monuments to the bravery of soldiers in the two world wars, displayed on streets and on top of hills overlooking towns. At first glance however, there appears to be a lack of recognition given to the original occupants of Otago, Māori, and their contributions to the cultural landscapes of Otago. This study will explore the level of recognition afforded to Māori cultural landscapes in the Otago Region. This will be conducted through a comprehensive literature review, document analysis of three Otago district plans, as well as interviews with key informants. The project investigates the nature of what Māori cultural landscapes are, why they’re important and the level of care afforded to them by the councils.
The findings from the project indicate that a level of understanding and recognition by the councils exists towards Māori cultural landscapes, however there are traits of Māori cultural landscapes which non-Māori struggle to comprehend. Meta-physical aspects of Māori culture in general can prove to be hard to legislate for, or to understand in an intellectual capacity by those with limited exposure to tikanga Māori. The research highlights the inclusiveness and willingness of councils to engage with iwi on Māori issues, but also the inherent difficulties associated with accommodating an indigenous worldview within the Western Paradigm and worldview.
Recommendations centre on the strengthening of ties between the councils and iwi through continued engagement, the inclusion of provisions in the district plans for the recognition and protection of Te Ao Mārama, or the Māori worldview. The tangible aspects of Māori cultural landscapes are easier to protect, it’s the spiritual dimension of Māori cultural landscapes that need attention.||