The ecosystem commons
- Department of Economics, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
Kei te ngaro haere ngā tohu taiao o Aotearo o te ao whānui hoki, pēnei i te wai ora. Ko te mate hoki kāre e āro ana te tangata me pēhea e whakatika, mā wai, me pēhea e whakarite, ka patua tonu. I te tau rua mano tekau ma iwa ka whakaetia te Kāwanatanga me tū te awa o Whanganui hei tangata i raro anō i tōna ake mana. Ahakoa he mea rerekē tēnei ki te ao Pākeha, ehara ki tō te tikanga Māori. Ko te kaupapa o tēnei tuhituhi he pātai mena koianei te huarahi, ina ra te whakatangata i ngā tohu taiao kia rite ai ki te ture Pākeha, kia ngāwari ake te whakatikatika haere.
Ecosystem services, such as a river’s water quality, are in decline, both in New Zealand and worldwide. The tragedy of the ecosystem commons describes the process where ‘free’ ecosystem services are overused and degraded, yet common economic prescriptions do not provide an effective governance system for ecosystem service loss. In 2017, the New Zealand parliament granted the Whanganui River legal personhood, thereby recognising the River as “an indivisible and living whole comprising the Whanganui River from the mountains to the sea”. Assigning legal personhood status to a natural ecosystem aligns with the Māori view of ecosystems and provides a governance framework such that activities of exploitation have to be evaluated against the impact on the ecological health of the system as whole. Ecosystems as legal entities may provide a flexible and durable solution to the tragedy of the ecosystem commons.