An East Coast group that has petitioned the government on land use has now taken its concerns to the United Nations. 

Mana Taiao Tairāwhiti representative Renee Raroa gave a presentation at a forum on indigenous issues at a meeting of the United Nations in New York. 

Speaking at the 22nd Session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Raroa, who grew up in Rangitukia, told the forum that the New Zealand Crown’s continuing support for pine forestry has caused severe environmental damage exacerbated by recent cyclones Hale and Gabrielle.

“In recent years, our territories have been repeatedly devastated by cyclones and floods, choking our waterways and coastlines with thick sediment and woody debris from clearfell plantation harvests. Over a century of deforestation has degraded our land, river, and marine systems; caused irreversible landscape changes, interrupted our climate cycles, and destabilised the balance between Ranginui, our sacred Sky father, and Papatūāku, Earth Mother.

“Throughout the 80s and 90s, the colonial establishment, the Crown, aggressively promoted conversion of land to exotic pine with promises of economic prosperity, passive income, sustained employment, and erosion prevention, none of which has come to bear. Only now, at the end of the first harvest cycle, is the undisclosed harm of this industry becoming clear. Communities are contractually locked into intergenerational commitments that will continue this forced destruction. The costs, to our landowners, of withdrawing from these contracts are simply unattainable.”

Raroa also criticised New Zealand’s Emissions Trading Scheme.

“Over the past three decades, pine plantations have rapidly increased in our territories for failed erosion prevention projects, timber and carbon credits. The New Zealand carbon credit system privileges exotic pine over native species, and pine is promoted by Crown scientists as a climate and erosion solution. The only acceptable solution is an immediate moratorium on clear-felling and the restoration of biodiverse native cover. We emphatically oppose carbon credits from pine as a climate solution.”

“The pine industry, in conjunction with the New Zealand Crown government, is jointly responsible for multiple Indigenous rights violations, culminating in loss of life, forced displacement, and broad ecocide, aquacide and cultural genocide.”

Raroa asked the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment to conduct an independent investigation into the pine industry in New Zealand

She encouraged all member states to “centre the rights and wellbeing of Indigenous peoples, Indigenous ecosystems, lands, and waters as the only true and just pathway to climate stability”.

Aaron Smale is Newsroom's Māori Issues Editor. Twitter: @ikon_media

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