Learn how the NZCA best gives effect to section 4 of the Conservation Act 1987: “This Act shall be so interpreted and administered as to give effect to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.”

Adopted June 2007
Reviewed and amended August 2019
Reviewed and amended December 2021

The New Zealand Conservation Authority (Authority) has a statutory obligation to fulfil Section 4 of the Conservation Act 1987 (section 4) viz: “This Act shall so be interpreted and administered as to give effect to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.”

  1. Section 4 is the responsibility held collectively by members of the Authority. The requirement to give effect to the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi / Treaty of Waitangi (te Tiriti) creates a firm obligation on Authority members and should not be narrowly construed.
  2. All members should have an understanding and working knowledge of the principles and obligations of te Tiriti and their relevance to the management of conservation.
  3. All conservation legislation listed in Schedule 1 of the Conservation Act 1987 (Act), is required to be applied consistently with the Section 4 requirement.
  4. Conservation considerations are paramount.[1]
  5. The principle of partnership including tino rangatiratanga should guide respectful working relationships with iwi and hapū on matters pertaining to conservation plans, policies or initiatives.
  6. The principle of active protection of Māori interests, including Māori data sovereignty, should also guide the relationship and substance of engagements with iwi and hapū on conservation matters and may include supporting iwi or hapū to reconnect to their ancestral lands by undertaking activities on public conservation land.
  7. The principle of options determines that as Treaty partners Māori have the right to undertake kaupapa Māori responsive practices.
  8. The principles of mana whenua, right of development and right of redress potentially require a degree of preference to be given to Māori and for Māori economic interests to be considered. [2]
  9. Mana recognition should be exercised (i.e. the correct approach to the mandated tribal authority or spokesperson(s)) and, if this is unclear, advice from a Māori authority on such matters should be obtained to confirm the correct approach is adopted.
  10. Decisions should always contain an explicit statement with supporting documentation of how Section 4 was addressed and in this respect any papers prepared for the Authority by the Department or by itself should contain the following information:
    • What the Section 4 considerations are
    • What engagement with tangata whenua has been undertaken or, if none, how an informed decision can still be made
    • Whether adequate information was provided for engagement and what was the nature of that process and information
    • What comments those engaged with had to make
    • How those comments have been considered in reaching a recommendation or any decision.
  1. In support of this policy, the Authority will discharge its responsibility to section 4 through the following actions:
    • Ensure that all advice to the Minister or Director-General and public submissions is consistent with, and gives effect to, section 4.
    • Record and develop a perspective on current Section 4 issues of importance to achieving conservation outcomes (e.g. post-Treaty settlement expectations with respect to governance, management and application of the Conservation General Policy and General Policy for National Parks).
    • Acknowledge kaitiakitanga as an important foundation for Māori conservation outcomes and its role in guiding how tangata whenua exercise their rangatiratanga responsibilities for the care and protection of the natural environment.
    • Be aware of mātauranga Māori (traditional knowledge) gained through generations of observation and practice and support its appropriate collection and use for conservation planning, monitoring and decision making. Ensure appropriate governance over mātauranga held by the Department of Conservation.
    • Be aware of nga mahinga kai / cultural harvest of food, and resource gathering practices.
    • Meet with local tangata whenua when travelling e.g. on field trips.
    • Schedule engagement with Māori involved in conservation governance and management as part of the annual work programme.
    • Conduct an annual self-review of its performance with respect to Māori engagement and fulfilling its Section 4 obligations, and this policy.
    • Encourage conservation boards to adopt this policy and practice guideline.
  2. All members are strongly encouraged to develop, such as through the Department’s Te Pūkenga Atawhai programme, a foundation understanding of the principles of te Tiriti, tikanga (customs and practices for respective iwi), and a familiarity with te reo Māori (for example, correct pronunciation of Māori place names, flora, fauna etc., a personal mihi/greeting, and/or waiata/song). 

[1] The Conservation Act 1987 was developed to promote the conservation of New Zealand's natural and historic resources.

[2] Refer to the Supreme Court’s ruling, Ngāi Tai Ki Tāmaki Tribal Trust v Minister of Conservation and Fullers Group Ltd and Motutapu Island Restoration Trust:

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