The bicameral Maori world is carefully divided into Tapu and Noa; loosely termed sacred and profane for Pakeha reference. The world is divided this way; left: right, female: male, conflict: resolution, calm: stormy, work: rest, and so on, with life’s aim being to keep each in balance with the other. It is time make this view the foundation of into our efforts at securing a core of the natural world in as original a condition as possible.
What is needed is a level of balance, so that both commerce and environmental protection can be pursued with clarity and energy. A balance that will allow a core of natural environments to survive beyond the direct influence of humans while permitting commerce to address its priorities without undue interference.
The commercial world’s singular attention is financial gain and as a consequence, human benefit, while preservation of the environment intends some natural continuity as a bulwark against commerce‘s more extreme expeditions. The two parts have nothing in common other than the longest term aim of human benefit – without a sustainable natural world we can’t survive.
To manage our conservation estate along these lines would see some natural areas, of forest, mountain, river, lake, marine and foreshore, locked away from human intervention other than those necessary for the survival of each in the modified environment of the modern world. In such a case marine reserves would allow no fishing, commercial or environmental, while forest reserves would allow no visitor access, or material extraction other than for essential research purposes. Reserves that are tapu in the extreme sense; no go areas.
Such reserves would necessarily have physical integrity; that is they would make natural sense according to their geographic and physical characters. Forests would be natural forest environments of a specified type, within a catchment range that would allow no unexpected incursions, while similar standards would apply to marine reserves, taking account of currents, natural flows, etc.
Then we could get on with the job preserving a hard core of our natural environment, providing seminal spaces for threatened species as well as heartland zone for a National Park system that is inevitably compromised by its dual commercial/conservation role.
Under such a regime, commerce could profitable make sense of resources such as native timbers (kauri, totara, kahikatea), native game birds, fishes etc, knowing that the each species is underwritten by a tapu area that attends to it flourishing. It would also mean an end to commercial erosion of the conservation estate by making clear it is tapu under all circumstances, no taking of fallen trees for timber, no nets inadvertently snaring Maui dolphins.
In the area of research, scientists could pursue pure science projects based in these areas without simultaneously managing a commercial agenda.
It would also make the job of Minister of Conservation easier as there is no opportunity for weasel words in an area with no compromise.
At the moment we have a steadily expanding DOC domain, and a just as steadily declining financial resource that is pressuring administrators to take flaky options like “community partnerships”. A clearly defined Tapu Estate would brook no political manipulation and would make the role of the Ministry very clear to everybody.
The only problem is, we need political intelligence to make it happen. That, as always, is an extremely rare commodity. Endangered, even.