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Tuhoe and NZ's first 'living building'
16 July 2015

In my work we collaborate with local Tangata Whenua frequently and I love it.

I particularly like how Maori take a long-term view when it comes to decision making, rather than the 'boom and bust' mentality that sees so much destruction of our natural resources.

While Maori may not have as much experience dealing with the Western system of education, finance and economy - and some mistakes are inevitable when learning something new - they certainly have a deep spiritual connection to the land which informs their approach.

This way of thinking and living means that - aside from a handful of examples - there are far less negative externalities on future generations when it comes to the exploitation of natures' bounty.

It is for this reason that I am proud to be working with Marae in the Waikato to restore the health of rivers and bring back the Tuna for sustainable harvesting, and that Maori schools engage keenly in our work about stopping litter get into the ocean.

But to me, nothing encapsulates this notion better than the new spiritual home of Tuhoe in Taneatua, near Whakatane.


Ngai Tuhoe has had a challenging past. They never signed the Treaty of Waitangi and over the years have endured severe hardship and injustice. During the New Zealand land wars Crown forces used brutal tactics against Tuhoe, destroying homes, food stores and crops and killing or driving off stock.

The crown has since returned some of their land and Tuhoe were in a position where they needed to build a community hub, so they chose to make statement. They built New Zealand's first 'living building' (pictured above) - which adheres to the world's most rigorous sustainability framework, developed by the International Living Futures Institute.

I urge you all to delve into this inspiring story to understand how we can design and build a structure that actually regenerates the land, rather than damages it.

This week marks the launch of the documentary film Ever the Land. You can check out the trailer below or book to see it during the International Film Festival this week.

I think the story behind the name of the film really encapsulates my point in this discussion. One of the characters, Kirsti, says: "There is nothing else that brings prosperity. It is only always ever the land."

I really wish that more of our decision making took future generations into account, which is why I think that Maori people should have more say in what we do.

Then we might have less people slashing, burning and poisoning our land in order to balance the books on unsustainable industries and buy things we don't need.

I think that long-term costs should be taken into account by law, so that the kind of precautionary approach becomes mainstream.

What examples do you have of decision making that takes future generations into account?

NZ Herald

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