Purpose – The indigenous Māori culture of New Zealand offers valuable insights for the development of ideas about the concept of asset. To highlight such insights, and to encourage a rethinking, this paper aims to explore the meaning of the closest Māori term to asset, taonga. Design/methodology/approach – The critical review the authors conduct fuses Western literature-based scholarship with an indigenous scholarly method that utilises oral information and the written literature of Māori scholars who have recognised traditional and scholarly credentials. Findings – Taonga includes a sacred regard for the whole of nature and a belief that resources are gifts from the gods and ancestors for which current generations of Māori are responsible stewards. Taonga emphasises guardianship over ownership, collective and co-operative rights over individualism, obligations towards future generations, and the need to manage resources sustainably. Originality/value – The insights offered by Māori culture are beneficial in addressing a range of vexing environmental and social issues in ways that embrace a broader set of principles than those based on individual property rights and economic values.