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Environment and History

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Environment and History

The Historicity of Institutional Trust and the Alienation of Maori Land for Catchment Control at Mangatu, New Zealand

Brad Coombes

Environment and History 9(2003): 333-359

Environmental problems require collective responses, but resource managers conventionally lack the managerial legitimacy to inspire collective action. Recent perspectives in planning theory have entreated for collaboration with the institutions of civic society as a basis for inspiring legitimacy in environmental management. This article maintains that there is considerable merit in these institutional perspectives, but the historical impediments to institutional engagement and trust require detailed analysis if those perspectives are to be successful. There is an inherent historicity to all relationships of trust, and this may be acute in the case of collaboration with indigenous peoples who have experienced colonial dislocation. In New Zealand, the rapidity of land loss, the lack of historical opportunities for engagement in resource management, and past attempts to assimilate institutions and values may influence the present stance of Maori, who are the indigenous population, on environmental management. An historical assessment of a state afforestation project at Mangatu on the east coast of New Zealand demonstrates that Maori have seldom been trusted as environmental guardians. Their preferred forms of environmental governance have been subject to cultural disdain, yielding a legacy of institutional mistrust which will not easily be alleviated.

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