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Te Mana O Te Wai

A concept of the essential significance of water

Te kaha o te wai – The life force of water

Our relationship to water is not only shaped by ecological conditions but also by our socio-cultural environment. Western culture usually looks at water from a financial perspective only. Therefore, it often neglects local knowledge about the origin of water, its impact on our environment, and especially cultural aspects. For the Western world, water is a resource to satisfy human needs. Ultimately, the overall goal of freshwater management is the equitable provision of clean drinking water to all inhabitants of Aotearoa.

However, water has an essential purpose and meaning in many cultural systems. It plays a supporting and connecting role as a mediating element: flowing between individuals, animals, plants, minerals and the environment. Our Western view of water as a resource is changing as we embrace steps toward acknowledging water as a vital life force and view it as a whole life cycle.

Te Mana o te Wai meaning

Te tapu o te wai – The sacredness of water

Te Mana O Te Wai Maori

For Māori, water has a deep spiritual meaning. In water, the deities are as present as their ancestors. Ancestors live in rivers as well as mythological gods. The waters of tribes’ homeland are attributed to their identity and pepeha: whatever happens to the water, happens to you. A spirit (wairua) permeates every river, lake and stream. Like all other things – earth, sky, animals, plants – the waters are personified. At the same time, it is a living component of a larger, universal organism.

Accordingly, Māori culture recognises water as a taonga (treasure) and wahi tapu (sacred place) for the region’s indigenous people and value to the whole country. It is also significant that water has different names. “Waiora” is the sacred water that falls as rain or comes from a spring. Only this type of water is suitable for ritual ceremonies, e.g. at birth or death. River water is usually considered as “waimaori”, safe and healthy for drinking and catching fish. Waste water becomes “waikino” or even “waimate” when it is too dangerous to drink.

Te whakapapa o te wai – The special relationship of Maori and water

In Māori mythology, the earth only became habitable for humans when parting heaven and earth. Sky Father, Ranginui, and Earth Mother, Papatūānuku, were in a close, loving embrace. They were separated by one of their sons – who is also considered the ancestor of today’s humans – lifting Ranginui with his feet. In their grief and longing, Papatūānuku lets her sighs rise as mountain mist, and Ranginui’s teardrops fall as rain on the earth. As a consequence of this separation, freshwater appears for the first time. It can be seen as the inevitable result of the atmosphere on which all life depends.

In the Māori worldview, animals, plants, rivers, mountains and lakes are ancestors. As a result, they are seen as family members who are respected and treated as fellow human beings. Thus dew and mountain mist are daily reminders of the kinship with water.

Te mana o te wai indiginous perspectiv

Te maramatanga o te hononga – the awareness of connectedness

Te mana o te Wai Aqua Works

However, there is often a lack of awareness regarding our water. Very few people know where water comes from and if it is safe to drink. We can all increase our attention to the ecological condition of the river or waterway outside of our front door or give attention to our bore/tank water quality. This is about connection, attachment, and oneness with water and its role and place of importance within our world.

The water within our cells, blood, breath, and brain was just rain, dew, and clouds, and it will be again after passing through us. Water connects us all, and therefore we are all part of this world. As part of the whole, it is in all of our interests not to harm it.

Māori teach their children that no waste should enter rivers and seas from which they catch fish. The reason is not contamination or danger of disease but the perception of impurity. Water has its own life force (mana). Thus, Maori attribute values and concepts to water, such as purity, integrity and scenic beauty.

In honour of our tangata whenua, such goals, which go beyond mere environmental and conservation considerations, will now be enshrined in the future laws of Aotearoa. The concept of Te Mana O Te Wei is to protect the life force of water in our country.

Te Mana O Te Wai

Te Mana o te Wai is not a new concept. It has been around for many years in Te Ao Maori. It has also been embedded as a fundamental concept in New Zealand freshwater management for the last decade. The core of the National Policy Statement for Freshwater is Te Mana O te Wai. Its primary purpose is to protect the life force of water and thus refers to the fundamental importance of water for iwi.

Te Mana O te Wai protects the mauri of the wai. It calls for the restoration and preservation the balance between the water, the wider environment, and the community.”          (National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, 2020)

This Statement for Freshwater Management shows a critical transition from an economic Western world view of water to a more indigenous, holistic perspective. First and foremost, it reflects the significance and values Maori attach to the life force of water. There are obligations that emerge from Te Mana o te Wai which follow a clearly defined hierarchy. They are prioritised as follows:


The legal context of Te mana O Te Wai

First, the health and well-being of water bodies and freshwater ecosystems. Second, the health needs of people (e.g. drinking water). Third, the ability of people and communities to provide for their social, economic and cultural well-being, now and into the future.

There are six principles that underpin Te Mana o te Wai.

  • Mana whakahaere: the power, authority, and obligations of tangata whenua to make decisions that maintain, protect, and sustain the health and well-being of, and their relationship with, freshwater.
  • Kaitiakitanga: the obligation of tangata whenua to preserve, restore, enhance, and sustainably use freshwater for the benefit of present and future generations.
  • Manaakitanga: the process by which tangata whenua show respect, generosity, and care for freshwater and for others.
  • Governance: the responsibility of those with authority for making decisions about freshwater to do so in a way that prioritises the health and well-being of freshwater now and into the future.
  • Stewardship: the obligation of all New Zealanders to manage freshwater in a way that ensures it sustains present and future generations.
  • Care and respect: the responsibility of all New Zealanders to care for freshwater in providing for the health of the nation.
Taumata Arowai Te mana o te wai
Aqua Works local family business

What does Te Mana O Te Wai means for Aqua Works

Kaitiakitanga embodies respect and stewardship for nature. In Aotearoa, New Zealand, we feel a special connection to the land we come from. From an early age, we learn to conserve it. Similarly, Aqua Works firmly believes that if we take care of the land, it will care for us and future generations. It is part of our Aqua Works culture and is reflected in our values.

It starts in our kainga with our whanau and our hapori. Teaching our tamariki and mokopuna about stewardship of our land, eco system and water.

We support our community with many years of industry experience, local knowledge, and passion for clean and healthy drinking water. We support you in your water decisions by sharing our knowledge of your water resources. Additionally, we keep you informed, help you make good decisions and protect your nearby water sources.

Aqua Works is a purpose-driven, local family business in the Rodney district. We engage with our community and local iwi, acknowledging their values. Consequently, we can offer water solutions that consider their needs while respecting Te Mana O te Wai and protecting water’s life force and sustainability.

At Aqua Works, we respect and recognise Te Mana o te Wai when advising our Tangata Whenua, local communities, and clients. Therefore, our team supports you find the best solution for your healthy water heeds. Ultimately, we know through Kaitiakitanga that the importance and protection of safe and potable drinking water in our lives are paramount to all of us. Our mission is to take care of the water, and if we all do this, the water will take care of us.

Te tikanga o Te Mana o te Wai mo te Aqua Works –

water is the elixir of life and our passion

Exceptional support for our business customers

Aqua Works has over 20 years of experience as a local expert in commercial water treatment for many industries. We offer water solutions supporting you to meet your individual needs and legal requirements. The modularity of our product range helps you to optimise investment costs. 

At the same time, it ensures the best purification of your water. We deliver customised water treatment solutions to keep your water safe wherever you need it in your business. Aqua Work’s water filtration systems, UV filter purification, water treatment, ozone systems, and water pumps combine sustainability, high performance and cost-efficiency. 

With years of experience and expert advice, our passionate team is here to help you every step of the way to clean and potable drinking water. Our maintenance service guarantees the continuous, reliable operation of the products used. Therefore, we recommend regular maintenance of all water treatment systems to detect possible malfunctions early.

Simultaneously, we eliminate the triggers and avoid costly replacements. And if something should happen spontaneously, call our 24/7 water pump emergency service. We will take care of your problem immediately and make sure that the water in your business is running again as quickly as possible.

At Aqua Works, we go the extra mile to ensure your water is healthy and fit for its purpose. Hence, all our water treatment products are field tried-and-tested, including our new innovative products and solutions. Want to experience our excellent UV filters, water filtration systems and water pumps or our high-quality UV filter service, water pump repairs or water pump service? Give us a call today at 0800 AQUA WORKS.