Flanders to help native New Zealanders

by Ed Rodriguez | 5/11/93 10:00pm

Nicholas Flanders, associate director of the College's Institute of Arctic Studies, has been awarded a grant from the J. William Fulbright Scholarship Board to help a native New Zealand tribe implement its own natural resource management strategies.

According to Flanders, the Maori people were given formal property rights in the 1840s by the Treaty of Waitangi, but their rights were slowly eroded by the English government. Today, as the Maori people grow in number and political influence, they are beginning to reclaim their original property rights to the land.

Flanders will spend six months looking at how the Maori people can restore the temperate rain forest to its original form and manage the costal zone using their own values and criteria.

When the English came to New Zealand they brought various foreign species of plants and animals to New Zealand such as brown trout and sheep. These species altered the ecosystem of New Zealand. The sheep, for example, have caused extensive terrain damage because of their eating habits.

To return the land to its condition prior to the arrival of English settlers, the Maori must reintroduce native plants that have been damaged by the imported species, Flanders said.

Flanders and other experts said they are not sure what would happen to this temperate rain forest ecosystem if it were to be left alone in its altered state. But Flanders said he is fairly sure that the rain forest would not return to its original state.

The original nature of the temperate rain forest in New Zealand is similar to the forest in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, but the New Zealand rain forest contains more biodiversity, Flanders said.

The Maori people recently obtained the fishing rights to the coastal area surrounding their lands. Flanders said he will try to help the Maoris establish a framework in which they can regulate their fishing practices. He said he will try to help the tribe reconcile local values about fishing with global realities.

Prior to receiving the grant, Flanders worked with Alaskan natives to develop a similar framework to manage their natural resources. Like the Maori, the Alaskans recently received fishing and other natural resource management rights.

Flanders said his work with the Alaskan natives and the Maori people of New Zealand is part of a resurgence in the role of indigenous people in resource management.

Flanders will be leaving for New Zealand in two months with his daughter, who will begin school there. His wife and son will follow several months later.