'Of Milk and Honey: A design strategy for the economical, ecological and ideological resilience of a cultural landscape and its people
Wetlands are one of New Zealand’s most important freshwater ecosystems. They are low-lying waterlogged areas bordering rivers and streams and forming quiet edges of lakes, rivers, low- lying floodplains estuaries and harbours. In the last 150 years more than 90% of New Zealand’s wetlands have been destroyed or severely impacted by agricultural developments. The South Wairarapa region, in the lower part of the North Island, covers 2,485 km2 and is characterised by its expanses of lowland plains and lakes, surrounded by mountainous ranges. Once its wetlands provided important ecosystem services filtering nutrients and controlling floodwaters but they are now under pressure from agricultural land use, including drainage, grazing, nutrient runoff and the impacts of pest animals and plants. For the indigenous Māori culture of New Zealand, wetlands are often regarded as equivalent to organs that cleanse the body (tinana) such as the kidneys (nga whatumanawa) and the liver (te ate), and therefore represent important sites for purifying and cleaning, by filtering or reducing nutrients, chemicals and suspended sediment before it reaches the Lake Wairarapa. Many wetlands have historical and cultural importance as well as are regarded as source of food (mahinga kai) for the Māori tribes, providing important habitats for a range of culturally important food sources such as eel or important flora for carving such as flax, bulrush, tall grasses and bamboo spike sedges. Māori people perceive their own health as directly linked to the condition of their environments. This study examines how we can re-purpose / re-configure land use within the region to a more ecologically conscious industry, finding a balance between the existing farming and agricultural practices that the region relies on and a recognition to the cultural practices of the Māori people and its importance to healthy communities and resourceful environments.