With Water (re) connection people to our urban waterways
The Whanganui River was the first in the world to be granted legalpersonhood status. This groundbreaking piece of legislation shiftedenvironmental protection and governance by acknowledgingMāori holistic perception of water and its ontological bearing with“Ko au te awa, Ko te awa ko au - I am the river, and the river is me”.
Ongoing settler colonisation and western urbanisation has allowedrapid degradation of waterways holding significance for Māori.
Here, the Whanganui River Agreement showcases how Māori watervalues might be upheld with a western environmental governanceframework thereby moving closer to Te Tiriti o Waitangi’s intent.
This thesis tests the impact of this legislation on an urban pipedstream with a focus on how landscape architectural practice mightbe changed. The research uses qualitative research, fieldwork anddesign-led responses concurrently to understand and encounter thestream as a living entity with empathy. Through the course of theinvestigation, the research reflects on the role of a landscape architectat this juncture and how reciprocity in environmental relationshipbetween waterway and designer impacts deign approach andpractice. Ideas of relationality between natural systems and social-spatialsystems are therefore interrogated. The research imaginesthe integration and reciprocity of natural systems, public space andstormwater management to reorient the urban environment by givingvoice back to waterways. In questioning the ontological status of anurban stream the research makes a contribution to understandingwhat is at stake for the designer in the changing space of Aotearoa’senvironmental governance.