The Catholic Agency for Justice, Peace and Development

Old ways and new blend together in work of restoration

In the second post of the Caritas blog series for Laudato Si' Week 2020, Martin de Jong, Advocacy Advisor for Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand and coordinator for the State of the Environment for Oceania report series, reflects on the long-term restoration of people and forest in Northland, Aotearoa New Zealand. is essential to show special care for indigenous communities and their cultural traditions. ...For them, land is not a commodity but rather a gift from God from their ancestors who rest there, a sacred space with which they need to interact if they are to maintain their identity and values. Pope Francis, Laudato Si', #146

Caritas seeks to reflect Pacific and highlight indigenous ways of being and doing through its environmental research and advocacy. There are three strands woven into the 'mat' of ground-based research shared through the Caritas State of the Environment report for Oceania series. These are: 

  • Catholic social teaching on care of creation, or care for our common home, as Pope Francis put it in Laudato Si';
  • Traditional knowledge and Indigenous ways of understanding the world;
  • Scientific knowledge about the changes happening to the planet, as well as technology to improve our lives, on the understanding that the goods and resources are inteded for all.

Nowhere did these three strands come together better than when I journeyed last year to the Hokianga in the Far North of Aotearoa New Zealand. Rangatahi (youth) at Te Kura Taumata o Panguru (Panguru Area School) were learning about their ancestral forest Au Warawara through their elders and first-hand engagement with the forest in restoration efforts. They were also embarking on a virtual reality project to provide an experience of what the forest once was, and what it could be in the future. Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand had earlier partnered with the school in preparing a teaching resource on Au Warawara.

This work with the school and rangatahi is just one element of an ambitious, multi-faceted 2000-year restoration project for the forest. It brings the old and young together, and involves the local iwi (tribe), schools, longevity of the Kauri tree once prevalent in the area.

"Our project embraces the long survivorship of Kauri - 2000 years to re-establish a physical and regular connection between our future problem-solvers and these ancient trees of Au Warawara," says the Warawara Kaitiaki Komiti.


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Tutu ana te puehu - Stirring up the dust