Tears of Rangi: Water, power, and people in New Zealand

Anne Salmond


In this article, I consider a series of exchanges and entanglements, convergences, and collisions involving ancestral Maori, Western, and modernist onto-logics in relation to fresh water in New Zealand. Maori (and by implication, non-Maori) rights to fresh water have been a topic of passionate, often confrontational debate, instigated by the privatization of local power companies. In an innovative response to a claim to the Waitangi Tribunal by Whanganui iwi (kin groups), the Whanganui River has been declared a legal being, one of the first rivers in the world to gain this status. In the Whanganui deed of settlement with the Crown, ancestral Maori and modernist framings are juxtaposed, despite being incommensurable in certain respects. Drawing upon divergent forms of order, participants in the process have sought to weave together a concerted approach toward the management of New Zealand's waterways. This interweaving avoids the need for a merging of horizons, a "theory of everything" in which only one reality is possible and only one set of assumptions about the world can prevail.

Full Text:


DOI: https://doi.org/10.14318/hau4.3.017