Cultivating boundary crossers – trespass gardening by urban Maori as Indigenous leadership and critical pedagogy

Dr Brad Coombes1

1University of Auckland


Those who pursue Indigenous resurgence in cities often encounter vexatious counter-claims about authenticity. Multiply disenfranchised, urban Maori contest claims against their legitimacy, but they also engage in alliance building, cross-cultural and intergenerational learning. In south Auckland, one alliance practises landscape rehabilitation to prove cultural connections to whenua (land) and to achieve visibility for overtly social and political goals. Its trespass cultivation defends cultural heritage from urban sprawl, but it is also entangled with social construction of urban indigenous identities and various forms of moral leadership. With intent to cross boundaries set by Pakeha and Maori, clandestine restoration has become more daring, less legal, and more conspicuous. Children and families perform this boundary crossing through ‘plant bombing’ and ‘guerrilla gardening’ – generative practices that create new or resurrect old connections to land, and which sustain critical thinking and intergenerational politics. This approach to critical pedagogy demonstrates flaws in other modes of environmental learning, suggesting that the academy may need to leave the classroom or lyceum to achieve relevance in Indigenous communities.


Brad Coombes ( – Kati Mamoe – Ngati Kahungunu) researches postcolonial politics at the intersection of debates about indigenous resurgence, environmental in/justice and political ecology. He regularly contributes to Treaty and claims settlement processes and he chairs a Maori land incorporation in south Otago. Brad is a member of the board of trustees for the urban Maori group he will discuss in his presentation.

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