Environment Southland



"Kaitiakitanga – it's a responsibility, not a privilege", says Stewart Bull.

Based on the idea of humans as part of the natural world, kaitiakitanga is a worldview of environmental guardianship and protection. "It's not just a responsibility for Māori, it's for everyone; it's about community. If we can all take on this role, we can all benefit."

Stewart (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Māmoe, Waitaha) has been working in the community and on conservation matters in the Southland region for many years. A member of the Southland Conservation Board, a board representative on the Murihiku Kaitiaki Roopu, a member of the Whenua Hou Committee, and a founding member of the Fiordland Marine Guardians, Stewart was awarded the Queen's Service Medal (QSM) for his services to conservation and Māori in June last year.

"We have to think about the big picture – is this practice sustainable? There are always consequences. We have to think about the things that we are doing – walking in the river, washing our cars. We have to think, ‘What are the consequences? Where is it going?' We have to understand that," he says.

Stewart believes that we also need to promote the idea of environmental capital in the same way one might consider financial capital. "If you invest money in the bank, you wouldn't quickly take it back out again. You can only take so much. And you can't take out more than what can be sustained."

When thinking about wai (water), Stewart says the health and wellbeing of our ecosystem is reliant on it to survive.

"I see it functioning in the same way as our veins. Water is like blood, our lakes and rivers are the veins. I wouldn't compromise my blood, there would be consequences to my actions. Likewise with water."

Just as water is vital to our ecosystem, so too are all of our roles in looking after our environment.

"You put the whole jigsaw together and you see what's missing. It's a big jigsaw for the whole lot of us. If everyone just does a wee bit though, then we have an accumulation of doing the right thing."