Aotearoa, along with Australia and the Pacific island nations, is located in a part of the world called Oceania. Throughout the world Oceania is known for its great national beauty and for its unspoiled environment. In a letter to the Church in Oceania (22 November 2001), Pope John Paul II reminds the people in the region that they are responsible for caring for the beautiful environment that surrounds them:
Because creation was entrusted to human stewardship, the natural world is not just a resource to be exploited but also a realisty to be respected and even reverenced as a gift and trust from God. It is the task of human beings to care for, preserve and cultivate the treasures of creation.
On behalf of people everywhere, the Pope asks the governments and peoples of Oceania to be special stewards of the Pacific Ocean – which contains over one half of the earth’s total supply of water. He asks the Pacific peoples to protect this precious environment for present and future generations:
The continued health of this and other oceans is crucial for the welfare of peoples not only in Oceania but in every part of the world.
The natural resources of Oceania need to be protected against the harmful policies of some industrialised nations and increasingly powerful transnational corporations which can lead to deforestation, despoliation of the land, pollution of rivers by mining, over-fishing of profitable species, or fouling the fishing-grounds with industrial and nuclear waste. The dumping of nuclear waste in the area constitutes and added danger to the health of the indigenous population. Yet it is also important to recognize that industry can bring great benefits when undertaken with due respect for the rights and the culture of the local population and for the integrity of the environment.