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The Iwokrama Canopy Walkway – A Lesson in Honest Partnership

Situated in the depths of Guyana’s Amazonian rainforest I have had a yearning to visit this place, not just because it is a fine example of ecological tourism but because it represents a very successful joint venture between the indigenous Amerindians, private sector tourism interests and the government of Canada. Guyana you might know is in the news because it’s signed a deal with Norway for dollars not to cut down its forest. This is one way Norway is meeting its Kyoto obligations. In NZ all we’ve managed so far is an ETS where all the real emitters are exempt!

Anyway back to the canopy walkway. Sited at times 30 metres above the forest floor you walk from tree to tree along suspended bridges that are linked by platforms at each tree. It is surreal – you look out across the canopy to afar and you’re up there, literally, with birds, the butterflies and the monkeys. Too much! See the photos here

Now I’ve had some involvement with the Maungatautari project in the Waikato which is similarly founded – a JV between community volunteers, funders, landowners and iwi who have collaborated to ensure the 44 km pest-proof fence that makes this an ecological island, could encircle the mountain. The project has been run by a Trust started by some unbelievably visionary and capable people and the basis was agreed and has always been a third equal say between iwi, community volunteers and the co-operating landowners. But now after 8 years, that partnership of trust has been shattered by greedy iwi who have gone back on their word, thrown out what they agreed to and are now “demanding” they control 50% of the Trust. Their timing is impeccable – $30 million has been contributed to the ecological project in either volunteer time or bucks – virtually nil of it from iwi – and the Trust has been looking at a canopy walkway as a way of raising revenue to pay for maintenance of this incredible ecological asset. Iwi want the bucks for themselves, hence their greedy, unconscionable dishonest behaviour.

Talking to Makushi tribe members here at Iwokrama, the key to the success of the project has been the honesty and integrity of those involved. That means all parties have honoured their undertakings mana whenua take note!.  In contrast the Maungatautari project has been sabotaged by one dishonest partner leaving the rest of those responsible for getting the project where it is today – landowners, funders and community volunteers – alienated. How totally dumb of this silly faction to be so consumed by its own self-interest that it has just walked all over what others have created.

And as for the Maungatautari canopy walk. Unless some dumbasses in Waipa Council or Environment Waikato are going to stump up with ratepayers’ money to fund it – it now will not happen.  That is what the antics of these idiots have done. But the biggest risk is that landowners will withdraw their support – they have every right to, given the banditry of mana whenua who apparently believe because they’re Maori they don’t need to be ethical, honourable, or accountable. They are mistaken, Maoridom needs to condemn their behaviour. This is just a cabal of crooks.

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