Lessons from resource management by indigenous Maori in New Zealand: Governing the ecosystems as a commons
The paradigm shift to holistic management rests on the insight that exploitation affects all aspects of the ecosystem. While scholars and policy-makers all want ecosystem based management (EBM), few, if any, have achieved it in practice. Adaptive governance promises effective EBM, but guidance remains elusive. Looking back to an ecosystem people such as the indigenous Maori in the south of New Zealand and analyzing their resource management system using Ostrom's (1990) eight-principle framework for common property rights regimes allows us to answer three central questions. How did Ngai Tahu, the dominant tribe on the South Island, manage the complex linkages, uncertainty and interactions with nature while exploiting their environment? Was resource exploitation sustainable? And what can be drawn from their management system for modern governance structures? The application of Ostrom's framework shows that kaitiakitanga (stewardship) as an integrated management system generally aligns with the principles necessary for successful EBM and provided Ngai Tahu with the necessary tools to control and adapt measures across space and time, mirroring the modern tenets of adaptive management. Studying a people that practiced EBM successfully provides the insight that EBM may be achieved by governing ecosystems through an integrated common property management system.
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