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Maori Health Development and Environmental Issue Essay

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Updated: Apr 9th, 2020


The environmental issue associated with land development influences all the aspects of the Maori social life. Inappropriate land development results in the erosion, landslide risk, deforestation, and the decreased productivity of the soils. These processes affect the Maori health significantly because the Maori community’s development depends on the active use of land resources.

Referring to the Maori community, it is necessary to state that the land development issue results in provoking the problems with Maori mental health and in affecting the rates of respiratory diseases and obesity among the Maori population. The RMA with amendments of 2005 can be discussed as one of the contemporary developments to address the problem of inappropriate land development in Aotearoa, New Zealand.


Natural resources, flora, and fauna play the important role in influencing the aspects of the Maori social life and health because the Maori community depends significantly on the land resources. From this point, one of the most problematic environmental issues in Aotearoa, New Zealand, is the issue of land development. During the recent decades, the Maori approaches to utilising land resources have been changing significantly.

The problem is in the fact that the focus on farming during the 19th century and on industry during the 20th century affected the aspects of the land development, and today, Maori land resources are often discussed with references to the issues of erosion and deforestation and to the consequences of mining and farming (Durie, 1998, p. 94).

Thus, the land development as the environmental issue also affects the health of Maori in relation to the mental health, respiratory diseases, and diet because changes in the landscape and utilisation of land resources lead to changes in the people’s habits and everyday way of life.

The Issue of Land Development in Aotearoa, New Zealand

Land development as the environmental issue in relation to Aotearoa, New Zealand, should be discussed from many perspectives. On the one hand, during a long period of time, Maori have been cultivating crops and vegetables and growing livestock to address their demands in food. The developed farming activities were associated with the constant and active use of natural resources and led to landslide risks and erosion.

The further development of industries and mining activities led to erosion and deforestation. On the other hand, at the current stage of discussing the environmental issue, it is important to note that today Maori land “comprises 1.466 million hectares, which is approximately 5.5 percent of New Zealand’s land mass”, but Maori suffers from such problems of land development as the erosion, decreased productivity of soils, deforestation, and the inappropriate use of lands (Discussion Document: Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993 Review Panel, 2013, p. 14). The problem of land development affects all the spheres of the Maori community’s life.

Relationship between Māori Health and the Land Development Environmental Issue

The land development issue influences Maori health significantly. The inappropriate use of lands and the changes in the landscape influence the people’s mental health. Having strong cultural and spiritual bonds with the land, Maori negatively react to any changes associated with the land development (Knox, 2011, p. 214).

Thus, the feeling of anxiety in Maori is often associated with observing the results of sand mining and deforestation (Traditional Maori biodiversity, 2014). Maori people note that they fear to observe the modern trends associated with the land use because the inappropriate land use is risky for their further life in Aotearoa (The Māori Plan for Tāmaki Makaurau, 2012).

From this point, the strong reference to the cultural and spiritual factors typical for the discussion of the land use problem causes Maori people’s fear and anxiety regarding their further life in Aotearoa.

The erosion processes affect the productivity of the lands’ soils. As a result, the harvest levels decrease as well as the nutritional value of vegetable and fruits. The decrease in the soil productivity and nutritional value of vegetables is closely associated with such issues as poverty, malnutrition, and obesity. The high percentage of Maori population lives in the rural territories, and farming is directly connected with the nutrition of this category of the population.

According to the report on the health of Maori adults and children of 2013, “One in five Māori children, and two in five Māori adults, are obese” (The Health of Māori Adults and Children, 2013). While comparing the data with the New Zealand’s statistics on the problem, it is necessary to note that the stated rates are significantly higher than the average rage in the country.

Deforestation can be discussed as one of the causes of decreasing the air quality. As a result, Maori people become at risk of developing the respiratory diseases. Following the health statistics on the issue, it is necessary to note that “asthma affects nearly one in five Māori adults and children” (The Health of Māori Adults and Children, 2013).

Referring to the mentioned statistics and data provided in the national and community health reports, it is possible to state that the Maori health directly depends on the environment, and the land development issue can affect Maori health significantly.

Maori Health and Environmental Issue within the Socio-Political Context and Maori Perspectives

Maori health is directly affected by the land development problems because Maori people traditionally refer to the land as the main source of food. Such natural processes as erosion negatively influence the economic value of the Maori people’s activities in Aotearoa. The productivity of the soils decreases while affecting the social and economic life of Maori people.

The rural population can suffer from malnutrition, when the urban population chooses to consume products which influence obesity among the adult and young Maori people (The Māori Plan for Tāmaki Makaurau, 2012). From this point, the perspectives of the local Maori related to the issue of the ineffective land development are the increase in the respiratory disease and obesity rates as well as malnutrition rates during the following decade.

The government of New Zealand and the representatives of the Maori community develop projects and regulations to address the issue, and the Resource Management Act is one of the proposed developments in the field.

Contemporary Developments and Analysis

During a long period of time, the environmental issues associated with Maori lands were addressed according to Treaty of Waitangi developed in the 19th century. The modern complex character of environmental issues which affect the public’s health significantly influenced Maori and government’s vision of the problem. The Resource Management Act (RMA) was developed in 1991.

The important amendments to address the contemporary changes in relation to the Maori lands, environments, and social issues were proposed in 2005 (Vince, 2006, p. 296).

The developments mentioned in the RMA can be considered as congruent with the principles of Treaty of Waitangi because the main goal of the developments is to promote the appropriate use of lands and restoration of the natural resources in Aotearoa (Ministry of Social Development, 2014). Thus, the principles stated in the RMA are also correlated with ideals of Maori development, but the focus on the concrete strategies to cope with the environmental problems is necessary.

The effectiveness of such developments as the proposition of amendments to the RMA can be measured while focusing on changes in the health statistics. In spite of the fact that Maori problems can be discussed as addressed with references to Section 5 of the RMA, there are no obvious alternations in the health statistics in order to support the positive changes in Maori health influenced by environmental changes.

On the one hand, the RMA statements work to promote the protection of Maori lands and address the land development issue (Department of Conservation, 2014). On the other hand, the initiatives realised in relation to the RMA are not enough to respond to the problem at the higher level. There are no health statistics to demonstrate the improvement of Maori health directly associated with changes in the approach to addressing the environmental issues.


During the current decade, the land development issue can be discussed as one of the main environmental concerns affecting the health of Maori people in Aotearoa, New Zealand significantly. The problem is in the fact that the inappropriate land use and the development of industries in the region lead to deforestation, erosion, and decreases in the soil productivity. These factors influence the social and economic spheres related to the Maori community.

Furthermore, the most dramatic effect is on Maori health because many adults and children become suffering from obesity or malnutrition and respiratory diseases. One more health problem is the feeling of anxiety experienced by Maori. However, current regulations in the field cannot address the issue effectively.


Department of Conservation. (2014). Web.

Discussion Document: Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993 Review Panel. (2013). Web.

Durie, M. (1998). Te mana te kāwanatanga:The politics of Māori self-determination. Auckland: Oxford University Press.

Knox, C. (2011). Maori land development and the Treaty: The erosion of Tino Rangatiratanga. In Tawhai, V., & Gray-Sharp, K. (Eds.), Always Speaking: The Treaty of Waitangi and Public Policy (pp. 213-229). USA: Huia Publishers.

Ministry of Social Development. (2014). Web.

The Health of Māori Adults and Children. (2013). Web.

The Māori Plan for Tāmaki Makaurau. (2012). Web.

Traditional Maori biodiversity. (2014). Web.

Vince, J. (2006). Maori Consultation under the Resource Management Act and the 2005 Amendments. New Zealand Journal of Environmental Law, 10(1), 295-327.

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