Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Land Loss, Historic Trauma and the Intergenerational Transmission of Wellbeing: The Experience of Iwi in Aotearoa New Zealand

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posted on 2021-04-15, 21:48 authored by Thom, Rowan

Previous literature has outlined the impacts that the colonisation of Aotearoa New Zealand has had on Māori and how these impacts persist through the intergenerational transfer of trauma which has resulted in socioeconomic deprivation and cultural marginalisation. This thesis will examine whether historical land alienation, based on the unique experiences suffered by different iwi (tribes), explains aspects of the variation observed in contemporary economic, social and cultural outcomes of different iwi. It draws from and contributes to the literature on historic trauma, post-development theory, and path dependency.

To examine these issues, the thesis uses geospatial data of Māori land holdings through different points in time and links it to contemporary cultural and socioeconomic outcomes (by iwi) using data from the 2013 New Zealand census and Te Kupenga. It also explores the relationship that the landholdings have with iwi population growth and Land Use Capability (LUC) class, utilising ordinary least squares (OLS) and ordered logit regression modelling. The analysis also includes a dummy variable for iwi who suffered land alienations via confiscation.

The thesis makes several findings. First, it finds that iwi who had a large proportion of arable land were more likely to experience the greatest proportion of land loss overall. This reaffirms the historical narrative that Māori land that was suitable for arable use was targeted for acquisitions and confiscation and inevitably alienated from iwi in order to establish and facilitate European settlement.

Second, there is a negative relationship between land loss and certain contemporary cultural wellbeing measures, such as te reo Māori proficiency. This supports the narrative that the displacement of iwi from their land impacted intergenerational wellbeing and led to the loss of cultural efficacy and wellbeing for contemporary iwi members, through the deterioration of many established social structures.

Third, the findings suggest that Māori culture serves an important function of providing resilience for iwi against historic trauma, particularly for those iwi that experienced a ‘cataclysmic’ historic trauma event through confiscation. The findings also illustrate the importance of reconnecting people with their whenua and traditional iwi boundaries (rohe) and the central role this has in improving the wellbeing outcomes of iwi through the strengthening of culture.

Fourth, there is a positive relationship between historic land loss and contemporary cellular access. This contributes to the literature on evolutionary economics and historic path dependency of infrastructure investment and development, specifically in relation to cellular infrastructure, with it suggesting that contemporary access to internet and cellular infrastructure is predicated on early European investment in infrastructure.

The findings from this thesis illustrate the central role that mātauranga and tikanga Māori have in enhancing the wellbeing of Māori. It shows how this cultural knowledge operates as a source of resilience for Māori, with it having the potential to support healing from historic trauma; trauma which continues to affect the wellbeing outcomes of contemporary Māori. Thus, this thesis may be useful in the development of policies that contribute towards improving the wellbeing outcomes of Māori through the cultural empowerment of whānau, hapū and iwi.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Name

Master of Commerce

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

School of Government

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Government


Grimes, Arthur