© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2022

Teaching sustainability through Tikanga

Luka Forman
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Kahurangi Carter teaching.   Luka Forman

Not for profit Para Kore held a wānanga (workshop) at the Richmond Community Garden to teach people about waste and sustainability through the Māori concepts of Tikanga and Whakapapa.

Kahurangi Carter is the national manager for Para Kore, and teaches people around New Zealand to deepen their relationship with the natural world through a Te Ao Māori. 

She says looking at things through this view reminds us of the cyclical way nature operates.

"If we just look around we can see circles in the compost system, where someone grows some food, eats it, all the leftovers go back into the compost and we put it back into the ground so a tree can be healthy and we can grow it again.

"It's like a perfect circular economy."

She says this is in direct contrast to the system of capitalism we live under. 

"This linear system that we live in now isn't a system based on reciprocity... it's not a system based on our connection to the natural world and also the understanding that we're from the natural world.

"So we need to move back towards circular systems in our lives, through things like eating from locally sourced food."

Kahurangi also mentioned product stewardship, a proposed regulation in which companies who produce products like batteries and tyres would be responsible for their disposal.

She said explaining sustainability through Tikanga helps make it easier for people to understand. 

"If we always just think about Whakapapa, which is the genealogy of where we come from... we know who our parents are, we know which street we grew up on... we can look at the whakapapa of our stuff as well.

"That would be the one thing I would say, if you're going to lean into Tikanga Māori and learn about how the indigenous people of Aotearoa look into sustainability - start with Whakapapa, and it applies to everything."

The wānanga taught the Māori creation story, and included activities where people matched natural goods with the products they're turned into, and how they're disposed of.

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Hands on activity at the Wānanga Luka Forman

The event was part of learning days, a series of workshops across the city run by Ako Ōtautahi. 

Cheryl Doig is the chair of Ako Ōtautahi, and was pleased with how the workshop turned out.

"I thought it was really useful, I really liked the connection with Te Ao Māori and the explanation of the linear system." 

She said it also helped her reflect on what choices she makes around waste.

Cheryl was also happy to see a diverse group of people at the event.

"The fact that you've got lots of people with different backgrounds and different ages, all contributing to a conversation that's pretty critical." 

Vic Nebbeling also found the wānanga informative.

"I absolutely loved the way that Kahurangi weaved in Te Ao Māori values, with the zero waste and our carbon footprint and all that, it was from a view of connection... which is kind of easier to instil." 

She said she learned about PFAS, which is a type of plastic often found in packaging that's labelled as compostable. 

"I haven't actually heard of that before, so I'm going to go home and do some research."