Tiwaiwaka Movement Aotearoa

Tiwaiwaka Movement Aotearoa

Ka ora te tangata, ka ora te whenua
- When the land is well, the people are well.

I first learnt about the Tiwaiwaka movement through my studies of Rongoā Māori and our native plants under the guidance of Pa McGowan and Donna Kerridge. Through their organisation www.titokieducation.co.nz, Pa and Donna run regular wananga (conferences) through the year ranging from introductory plant identification, preparing and harvesting, and spending time getting to know the Ngāhere (forest).

Through these experiences I have met many interesting people from NZ and around the world who have come to learn about the unique healing benefits of Aotearoa’s medicinal plants, and spend time learning from treasured teachers Pa & Donna in some of our most beautiful native forests, from the Kaimai's, to Kawhia, Pureora, and more.

Pa often recounts a story of when he first began to learn about Rongoā from his Koroua and Kuia on the Whanganui River… “E Pa, why do you keep asking us about the plants. We don’t have to tell you anything at all; all you have to do is get to know all the trees in the forest, and they will tell you everything you need to know.”

Something I often remember… We cannot be well, unless the earth which gives us life is also well. As healers, our first patient is the whenua… This is said to be the key to learning about Rongoā. Understanding the interconnections that sustain life… The plants, trees, rivers, creatures, are all significant teachers for us… We simply need to look to them for our learning, and listen.

That’s what Tiwaiwaka is about… Listening.


In 2018, Pa awoke one night during a terrible fever, and was urged to write down what would later become the basis of the Tiwaiwaka principles. He thought about sharing these scribblings for some time… Months passed, and the words he had written down in the dead of night, seemed to be becoming more and more relevant in our world. Finally, he put together a short booklet outlining the core concepts, and shared them with a small group over a pot of Tataramoa tea (sleepy tea) one night during a wananga at Waitaia Lodge.

On the edge of my seat, each principle glistening crystal clear in his sharing, he painted a picture of Tiwaiwaka; a movement which would go on to bring together healers from all over the world, committed to restoring the mauri (life force) of the whenua. Pa explained how many indigenous cultures all over the world have a similar message passed down through generations, and Tiwaiwaka (named after the native NZ Fantail) was unique to Aotearoa.

Flying freely, she would, bring together people to share their gifts, matauranga (wisdom), skills, experience, and networks throughout Aotearoa. She would assemble many groups and individuals, all committed to realizing the common vision, each in our own way, regardless of culture, religion, beliefs, and history.

Based on the 6 principles, Tiwaiwaka would be a messenger of hope. A guiding light, a framework for learning to care for the natural world in our role as the Pōtiki (last born). Keeping the whenua well is always the first priority. We must learn again to live with Papatuanuku for the survival of future generations.

“Never before has there been a greater need for change, both in Aotearoa and around the world. The effects of an escalating climate crisis and sea level rises increasingly manifest themselves, pollution levels both on land and in sea continue to increase, and we are still battling with COVID-19 and the domino effects of the pandemic. Tiwaiwaka is focused on helping to bring about the change that is needed to start to turn the tide and give hope for the future.

In particular we want to help change the order of priorities by which we as New Zealanders live our lives. The priorities are set out in the Tiwaiwaka Principles.”

- Pa McGowan, Oct 2020

Purchase the books & Learn more www.tiwaiwaka.nz

The Tiwaiwaka Principles

Principle 1

The whenua, Papatuanuku, is the source of all life.  She is the Mother. Ka ora te whenua, ka ora te tangata. Caring for the whenua is the first priority. Everything else must be measured against this.

In Aotearoa, within Māori tradition, Papatūānuku is our earth mother. She gave birth to all things, including people, trees, animals, plants, and birds. She is a living, breathing, sacred being, and her forests, rivers, mountains, are her living tissues and organs that provide for us and support our way of life. The forests, her children - create the oxygen we breathe, her soils grow food, and her waters cleanse and replenish our bodies. When we look closer, we see that her wellbeing is intrinsically connected to our own health.

We cannot be well unless our land, forests, and rivers are well.

In our families, communities and businesses, we must begin to change our priorities in line with caring for the whenua first. We need to make decisions based on whether they help/harm Papatuanuku. Everything else must be measured against this.

Principle 2

We are not the centre of the Universe but we are part of it. All living creatures are our brothers and sisters, and we are the potiki, the last born. Papatūānuku is our mother. We must care for them.

Many indigenous cultures around the world knew and understood the great order of things.

In Te Ao Māori, human beings are the pōtiki (last born) created as part of a wider whānau (family) including plants, trees, birds, mammals and insects. The animals and plants we need to sustain ourselves are our tuakana, our seniors, and we must consider their rights even as we lay claim to our own. 

For many of us, we make ourselves out to be the centre of the universe, and that is a great delusion we must confront and deal with. Clearly, we are not nature’s greatest achievement, with the birthright to dominate, take, destroy and control whatever we want, even when we call it a need.

Every living creature has rights, not just us. So do lakes and rivers, forests and wetlands, and all the living creatures, from the biggest to the tiniest, that make the earth their own. The first right is to live.

That means we need to give as much as we take, to maintain the balance of life. That’s known as the “Principle of Reciprocity”. It is the key to sustainability. In the long term to ensure our future we need to care for the other living creatures who share our world, and the resources from the Earth we all need to survive.

Principle 3

The mauri is the web of connections that sustains life. If any of those connections is weakened or broken the mauri is less able to sustain life. The integrity of the mauri and its web of connections has greater priority than the rights and needs of any individual or species.

Many kaumatua (elders) consider mauri to be the key to Rongoā Māori; it is the mauri that gives rongoā its ability to heal. The mauri is a  life force - it is what causes something to ‘be alive’, and be what it is meant to be.

Western tradition talks about the body and soul - Māori speak of wairua, mauri, and tinana. In a real sense, the mauri is what connects the wairua (soul) and the tinana (body) in order so that a person may be alive. When that connection is damaged or altered, a person is considered to be in ill health. When it is broken, they are no longer alive.

Everything has a mauri: people, animals, plants, trees, soil - but not just living things - even a rock can have mauri, a house, a gathering of people, a place, a landscape. Even the country as a whole...

The mauri is the unseen web of connections that sustains all life throughout the cosmos.

We are part of the network of life, and that we need that whole network to thrive, if we are to thrive.

Principle 4

Te tangata, people, are not the masters of the mauri; we are part of the mauri and embraced by it. Our role is to care for the mauri. In doing so we are cared for by it. We find peace. We are at home.

We are in fact the stewards or managers of the universe. 

It is not a licence to destroy, until there is no more. We are stewards charged with the responsibility to ensure that life continues to thrive. It is not God’s judgement that we must fear for failing to do that. It is the generations who follow us, those who will inherit what little we have left, and the rubbish and contamination that we have produced.

By being stewards of the universe, we are caring for others. We need to consider the effect of our actions and decisions on those around us, not just other people, but the whole living world of which we are a part, and the environment itself. Does what we do or what we take help the earth more that it hurts it? We have to honestly consider that.  As the “masters” of the universe we need to accept the responsibility of maintaining the balance needed to ensure that life on earth continues to thrive. That’s what “caring for the mauri” really entails.

Principle 5

No individual person is more important than any other. Each must contribute what they have to offer, and receive what they need to be well. We are most well when we are sustained by the mauri, the web of connections that makes us who we are.

The Tiwaiwaka principles are not an obstacle to our ambitions; rather they are a pathway towards finding who we are and what we are, and in finding that, finding peace. We are one with the gift of life that empowers life. We are connected to the mauri, sustained by it, fulfilled by it.

By having less and sharing more we will in fact find health and wellness, and a real sense of belonging. That is something that wealth, no matter how great and how insulated from reality, can ever hope to deliver.

Principle 6

We give special care to the tiniest living creatures. Even though they are too small to be seen they are the foundation that keeps and sustains all life. Caring for them is caring for the mauri. This is the source of wellness, of sustainability.

We are reminded of the powerful role of the tiniest organisms, within our ecosystem both in our environments, and even in our bodies.

Our own health depends on the microorganisms that live within our bodies. Each person’s body is populated with billions of living creatures that are much too small to be seen; they work together to keep us well, or make us unwell if the balance is wrong.

Without them we would not sustain health, and slowly experience dis-ease from malnutrition. It is these little helpers that make available to us the many micronutrients we need to function. Our modern lifestyle, the things we eat and drink and even the medications we use affect them, and make it more of a challenge to stay healthy.

Keeping them well is the key to us remaining well.


About Tiwaiwaka

Tiwaiwaka is a conservation movement in Aotearoa New Zealand, written by prominent Rongoā Māori practitioner Rob McGowan (also known as Pa Ropata). Based on the 6 principles of the movement, this series gives us a framework for fostering our interconnected relationship with the natural world, learning to care for the environment through our role as the Pōtiki (last born), and together, creating a clear pathway to a better future. 



Big thank you to www.impact.energi.world for the continued support.

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