Planning is a cultural activity, with the way we represent the spatial structure of cities reflecting our worldview. Within Aotearoa New Zealand, planning traditions and approaches practiced by indigenous Māori have been marginalized by colonial planning practices based in Western epistemology. However, Māori are promoting their planning traditions through strategic planning documents.
Through the Treaty settlement process, Māori tribes are becoming major landowners in urban areas. Land returned as redress for grievances under the Treaty of Waitangi is developed for the benefit of the tribe. This research investigates tensions between the development of tribal land and local government growth strategies, by comparing the different icons, spatial structures, and development patterns visible in Māori and Pākehā planning documents. The research is based on critical discourse analysis of strategic planning documents, and interviews.
Focusing on the Hamilton district/Waikato-Tainui tribal area of New Zealand, this article considers the metaphor of the ‘City Heart’ employed by Hamilton City Council to reinforce the importance of the Central Business District; and the representation of the tribally-owned ‘The Base’ development as an icon of ‘economic sovereignty’. Spatial concepts such as compact development emphasise the primacy of the central city. However, strategic planning which concentrates development around historical, colonial centres may ignore the possibility of other spatial patterns, such as indigenous centres of economic, political, social, and cultural activity. To reconcile these complexities, planners need to work within a ‘dual planning framework’ which recognizes both Māori and Pākehā planning traditions and spatial patterns. Planners must be aware of the historical development of their city, the importance of Treaty settlements, and work towards social justice.