Mauri | Principles & Concepts

Important traditional Māori cultural concepts and knowledge are now being used and interpreted and finding new relevance in the modern commercial world.

Below are some key traditional concepts, a basic expanded meaning and a description of how they align with contemporary western thinking.

Atua Nga Atua Kaitiaki - Divine forces, departmental gods, deities. Environmental, ancestral and cultural domains, frameworks.

Kaitiakitanga - Practice of spiritual and physical guardianship of the environment based on tikanga. Active guardianship, custodianship, stewardship, sustainable management of resources, healing the land, environmental responsibility Sustainable management of natural resources, sustainable development, integration, ecosystems, inter-connection of ecosystems, holism, intergenerational equity. We are the kaitiaki, guardians or custodians, of the land and the practise of doing so is kaitiakitanga.

Kanohi ki te kanohi - face to face, establishing connections to develop a better understanding of important issues.

Kotahitanga – Unity, collective, community inclusion, tribal, respect for individual differences. participation, consensus, collaboration, participatory decision-making, networking.

Mana - A sense of prestige and authority. Pride, authority, self esteem, respect

Mana Whenua - Relationship and ancestral links to land through whakapapa and occupation, rights of self-governance, rights to authority over traditional tribal land and resources. Strong established relationship or links to a defined land and or geographical area.

Mātauranga Māori - Traditional knowledge, wisdom, in the domain of Tohunga, understanding human-environmental relationships, understanding the world and universe from an indigenous perspective. All forms of knowledge used by a wide range of practitioners, traditional ecological knowledge, traditional, environmental, health, historical knowledge.

Mauri - Denoting health and spirit, a sustaining life force, intrinsic life source, an essential essence of being, an energy or element that permeates through all living things (basis for mauri is whakapapa). Key concept for describing environmental quality, pristine condition, human relationships, cumulative effects, cause and effect, pollution, contamination – degradation, declining, loss of mauri, a genetic code

Noa - Relaxed access, unrestricted use of resources de-regulated State. De-regulated, permitted, discretionary use.

Papatuanuku - The Earth Mother. She is the land and the biosphere. Papatuanuku gave birth to all things in our world including humans.

Taonga - Valued possessions, natural resources, prized, material or non-material objects, things of cultural and spiritual importance under tikanga, language, objects, sites, anything significant that has priority.

Tangata Whenua - the people of the land, local people.

Te Ao Turoa - Notion of intergenerational equity, sustainable management of resources, sustainable development.

Tikanga - Custom, lore, cultural practice, the correct way of doing something. Protocols, standards, procedures.

Turangawaewae - a place of standing, where you belong through your connection with the land and your kinship

Rahui - Restricted use of resources, regulated state. Regulation, controlled, sustainable management, laws

Ritenga - The area of customs, protocols, laws that regulate actions and behaviours related to the physical environment and people. Includes tapu, rahui, and noa – everything was balanced between regulated and where tapu was sacred. Regulations, regulatory framework, rules, practical rules to sustain the well-being of people, communities and natural resources. Permitted activities versus restricted and prohibited activities

Tapu - Sacred state, ritual constraint or prohibition, all pervasive force, religious observance. Sacred, prohibited, protocols, highly regulated, burial sites, areas or sites, off-limits, restricted access, special conditions

Tino rangatiratanga, mana motuhake - Sovereignty, control, autonomy, authority, self-determination, independence, control over the management of resources

Wairua - Spiritual dimension Spiritual, sacred, religious belief, cultural values

Whakapapa – Are creation stories, ancestral lineage from the spirit world to the natural, how all are connected.

Whenua - The land, the earth. Also see tangata whenua.

These values link very comfortably with the growing awareness in the western economies of the importance of ecology, sustainability and environmental protection for future generations.


He kura tangata e kore e rokohanga, he kura whenua ka rokohanga.
In a world where men and women and their possessions have no permanence, the land remains as the one possession which never changes nor is ever destroyed.