While the majority of oil and gas activity has taken place in Taranaki, increased exploration outside that region has bought the industry into much wider contact with the network of iwi groups and organisations, directly and indirectly.
There is no single definitive Taranaki Māori view on the oil and gas industry but there are a number of general observations and themes which might be made regarding Māori responses to oil and gas which can be categorised into four broad and overarching positions.
As a general proposition most Māori responses to oil and gas are likely to sit somewhere along this general continuum of views. It is important to note that while Iwi entities may express a particular policy position, hapū sub-groupings and non-tribal Māori organisations and land owners may take a different view depending on a range of factors. One such factor might include the quality of local level engagement with companies which seek to operate within their specific area of interest and whether this derives local benefit.
Also while tribal collectives may express a particular collective position, individual Māori (including members of those same tribal groups) are free to express their own view which may sometimes be in direct contrast to the wider group.
The expression of Māori collective views on oil and gas is generally conveyed through mandated tribal governance entities, modern iterations of which have evolved as a response to the Treaty settlement process.
The majority of these formal representative structures are less than 20 years old but have inherited the responsibility of managing a wide range of tribal activities including economic and social development as well as cultural revitalisation.
The leadership of modern tribal entities is predominantly drawn from the registered tribal membership through election processes. Tribal entities have taken on responsibility for articulating the tribal view of environmental issues in response to various pieces of legislation including the Resource Management Act, Crown Minerals Act and the Petroleum Act.
Engagement between the oil and gas industry operators and Māori is of critical importance and enshrined in New Zealand’s regulatory framework – including the Crown Minerals Act 1991.
One example of this relationship building is the engagement with the Ngati Rahiri hapū which lead to the training of New Zealand's first iwi Marine Mammal Observer.