Paper short abstract:
This paper explores the conflict over oil and gas development of a local landscape in which the Cartesian spatiality of Western environmental governance encounters the cultural landscape of indigenous Māori in New Zealand.
Paper long abstract:
In this paper, we examine an encounter between Western practices of environmental governance and an indigenous way of knowing and relating people and place. The context for our study is drilling for oil and gas in the Taranaki region of New Zealand. For some local Māori, tangata whenua with an ancestral relationship to the land and environment, the promulgation of oil and gas exploration and extraction in the Taranaki countryside raises concerns, particularly when it threatens the integrity of wāhi tapu - long-term sacred places such as burial grounds or battle sites. Through a critical reading of a corpus of publicly available texts, we analyse the controversial development of a well site and pipeline in a north Taranaki valley. The opposition of the local hapū (kinship group) to this development highlights the apparent incommensurability of the indigenous 'cultural landscape' (Bollig and Schulte, 1999) and the 'Cartesian spatiality' (Kotsakis, 2011) underlying Western understandings of landscape and environmental law. To be admitted as material in the ensuing regulatory and judicial considerations, local Māori cultural values and oral history related to a pā (fort) and ancestral burial in the valley were required to be empirical, quantifiable and spatially defined - literally 'fixed on a map' (Kotsakis, 2011). Thus, within the context of this development, the valley served as a heterotopic site, in which alternative processes of socio-spatial ordering were juxtaposed and 'tried out' (Hetherington, 1997).
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