“I was raised in a family that have long been involved with cultural awareness and rūnanga and tribal level politics. It’s been a part of my upbringing,” says Ramsden.
Selwyn Waihora zone manager Michaela Rees understands Environment Canterbury is the first council in New Zealand to appoint a cultural land management advisor and she says it’s important to have people who can build relationships in the community.
“Mananui’s role is to engage with landowners, farm managers, different industry groups, people who are affected, so they can understand what mahinga kai is and then what that means for them on-farm.”
Six months into the job, Ramsden says it’s an exciting opportunity to help and be part of change in Canterbury.
“I had a cousin noticing me and he said, ‘Have you seen this role advertised at Environment Canterbury?’ I thought I could probably do this, this is a good opportunity to enter the space I really want to be in and I really care about and so I applied for it.”
Ramsden has now met many farmers who are sceptical about the new rules and unfamiliar with mahinga kai concepts.
“For our farming friends, mate this is the first time, unless they’ve seen it on the news or their kids come home singing a waiata.”
“When I turn up on-farm it’s starting a relationship, ‘This is who I am, let’s talk.’ I sit there and listen and the first thing that comes out is emotion, followed by a little bit of pointing. ‘Aren’t you Ngāi Tahu? Well, this is the first time we’ve ever seen you, where have you been?”
A few farmers have suggested, bluntly, that he leaves. “I know where I stand with that, the first engagement has started and we just keep those relationships warm, it’s a phone call, it’s a text message.”
But he says the “tough ones” are a small percentage and most people are welcoming. “I’ve had the narrow-mindedness but socially that starts getting ruled out by their own peers saying, ‘Hang on, we actually need this, because unless you’re an expert on mahinga kai, do you know what this means?
“The lightbulb moments go when they understand what kaitiakitanga means, stewardship, or manaaki, to support, or rangatiratanga, leadership. These are all values that are present today and have been for generations, in both cultures with different names. Once you get the opportunity to talk about it, that’s when we grow.”
“All they need is an understanding of what mahinga kai is, what it looks like on-farm, and how we can support them with this land use consent process as a zone delivery team.”
Ramsden is quick to acknowledge that farmers, like Ngāi Tahu, embrace their role as guardians of the resources on their land and they are already implementing good management practices which will have a direct impact on water quality and, in turn, mahinga kai values. With support from DairyNZ, Synlait, landowners and rūnanga, Ramsden has led the two shed talks, one on an organic cropping farm at Harts Creek, near Te Waihora/ Lake Ellesmere (October 26) and a second at a dairy farm near Dunsandel (2nd November). Other talks may be held elsewhere in future.
“My story won’t really vary about mahinga kai. What will make it unique is that second half, the stories of the properties which are very different,” he says.
It’s early days but Ramsden has some simple aims. “What I’d like to achieve is that mahinga kai becomes a household term, we understand it and it’s just something we do. I’d like to think that a guage of my success is that not just Māori but a greater audience of Kiwis have a capacity and understanding around our culture and the values.”