This indicator provides information on the extent to which indigenous and other communities rely on forests as a source of basic commodities, such as food, fuel, shelter and medicinal plants. The practice of forest-based subsistence reflects the dependence of rural communities and individuals on forests for essential resources and may be closely linked to cultural identity and quality of life.
For centuries, Māori made extensive use of the indigenous forest resource for the supply of food, fuel, shelter, clothing and medicinal products. The resource use involved traditional processes of selection, access and removal – requiring the observance of rituals and ceremonies (see Indicator 6.3.c).
No communities rely on forests for subsistence purposes. Nevertheless, the supply of food (for example, meat from wild pigs and deer) and fuel (firewood) from both indigenous and plantation forests are important for some individuals and families, particularly in more remote locations. Forests and forestry are important sources of heat energy for the domestic sector. Wood-based fuels account for 7 percent (57.8 petajoules (PJs)) of the country’s primary energy supply. The main user of wood fuels is the wood processing sector, and the decision to use wood fuel is strictly a commercial one. However, wood fuel also accounts for a little less than half of all the energy used in domestic heating and a portion of the fuel used in this way is obtained outside the monetised part of the economy.
Traditional Māori medicine (rongoa Māori) involves spiritual healing and the use of herbs from indigenous plants, including tree species. Rongoa Māori is still practised, and scientific studies have supported some of the information about the medicinal use of plants. There is a growing interest in rongoa Māori, and several educational institutions now offer National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) courses in this field.
The use of the indigenous forest resource by Māori is closely linked to their culture and values. Traditional Māori attitudes to the land, sky, rivers, lakes and seas and the creatures that live in them are based on their knowledge and beliefs about the beginnings of the world.
A revival of interest in community knowledge of the indigenous forest and its fauna and flora is taking place. Māori take wood for carving, vegetable materials for weaving, and feathers of indigenous birds and other materials for traditional purposes. No data are available to indicate the extent to which these uses of forests are undertaken, but in a national context they are limited.