Oranga – Wellbeing

Te mauri o te rakau, te mauri o te ngahere, te mauri o te tangata: Mātauranga Māori based solutions for kauri dieback and myrtle rust.

This research is Active

Overview Te Tirohanga Whānui

Māori worldviews are essential for establishing priorities and allowing the co-production of knowledge in response to threats to taonga rākau (treasured tree) species.

In the fight against kauri dieback and myrtle rust, Māori have been seeking solutions that call on their knowledge systems and understandings of the physical and meta-physical elements of the universe. This includes solutions embedded in the spiritual dimensions of this knowledge, that are vital to the protection and enhancement of the natural environment. These are often overlooked, or at worst subjugated, by conventional environmental management practices and the science knowledge that underpins its decision-making.

Te mauri o te rakau, te mauri o te ngahere, te mauri o te tangata: Mātauranga Māori based solutions for kauri dieback and myrtle rust is a suite of kaupapa Māori projects that aim to restore the collective health of trees, forests and people. The team will do this by connecting to, and resourcing, Māori communities and their environmental knowledge holders to explore solutions embedded in mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge).

These projects are unashamedly indigenous and will collectively show how mātauranga-led research can contribute to contemporary biosecurity issues, while addressing the aspirations of Māori and their communities.

Oranga 2022

Research Area Summary Te Whakarāpopototanga Kaupapa

Te Whakaora a Ngā Kauri: rongoā solutions for kauri ora

Māori whakapapa describes how the kauri and tohorā (sperm whale) are brothers, but they were separated when the tohorā chose the ocean over the forest. In this research area we are looking at how this connection could possibly help save the kauri from kauri dieback disease.

The team is led by Matua Tohe Ashby and is investigating rongoā (traditional medicine) solutions for kauri dieback. This involves tohorā, karakia and mōteatea, and ties into the second Oranga research project: Te reo o te waonui a Tāne. We are also training kauri communities in rongoā solutions to help save their rākau (trees).

The research team is supported by Te Tira Whakamātaki, He Putanga Kōrero – He Puna Mātauranga and Dr Jamie Ataria.

Te Reo o te waonui a Tāne (the language of the domain of Tāne)

Led by the Pawarenga community, Dr. Valance Smith and his team are collaborating with kaitiaki and leaders from Pawarenga to delve into the realm of ‘ihirangaranga’—vibrations and frequencies—as healing sounds, aiming to construct a sonic tapestry of rejuvenation and well-being.

Nestled amidst the Te Auwarawara forest, the soundscape is a layered composition, intricately woven with sonic samples of healthy kauri within its untouched habitat, the whale song of its cetacean kin the tohora, inlayed with the healing sounds of taonga puoro, takutaku, and karakia, representing profound layers of ancient wisdom and knowledge, deeply ingrained in the very fabric of the soundscape.

In addition, the soundscape of ailing kauri trees is captured and examined to gather vital baseline data, enabling continuous monitoring and tracking of their healing progress.

This project is supported by an array of mātauranga Māori tools, including pūrākau (oral narratives), maramataka (lunar calendar), and ngā kaupeka (phases of summer and winter) unique to the Pawarenga region. These invaluable resources serve as both treatment modalities and management tools, empowering the community to foster the well-being and vitality of their kauri.

Hapū solutions for myrtle rust

Māori communities often have an intimate relationship with their ngahere (forest), so it only makes sense that they form an intergral part of the effort to protect it.Since the discovery of myrtle rust in Aotearoa in 2017, some research by the Ministry for Primary Industries and BioHeritage National Science Challenge has focused on how iwi, hapū, whānau, Māori organisations and communities could best respond to biosecurity threats. The main findings of this research was the need for Māori to lead their own research and identification of solutions that cater to their needs, not those of other ideologies.

Alby Marsh and our Hapū solutions for myrtle rust team are now relaying the detailed findings back to hapū around the country and finding out how they want to repond to myrtle rust.

We are working with regional Tangata Māori (Champions) to develop a conservation plan specific for each community. These involve looking at behavioural changes of wild taonga plants as they respond to myrtle rust (such as unexpected flowering), mātauranga Māori based solutions for myrtle rust, and mātauranga surveillance tools.

Te mana motuhake a ngā kākano (the sovereignty of seeds)

Seed collection and storage can be a critical conservation strategy when it comes to saving our taonga rākau (treasured trees). But the process must take proper account of Mana taonga rākau, mana whenua rangatiratanga (right to exercise authority) and tikanga (correct processes).

This project is working towards reclaiming seed conservation mātauranga (Māori knowledge) and developing collaborative agreements with seed conservation establishments, based on equality, fairness and open knowledge exchange.

Melanie Mark-Shadbolt, Te Taiawatea Moko-Painting and Marcus-Rongowhitiao Shadbolt are leading the team to co-develop seed conservation protocols that identify knowledge needs and training of indigenous communities. These protocols will protect their rights as custodians of taonga species, which is crucial to optimising the long-term disease management of myrtle rust.

A ‘Critical Friend’ approach

The Homiromiro bird flies above the canopy, looking down and seeing both the expanse of forest and the detail of each tree. This is the type of ‘critical friend’ we have embedded in Oranga.

Drs Mariella Marzano (Forest Research, Scotland) and Simon Lambert (Tūhoe, Ngāti Ruapani; Lincoln University) are both social scientists and it’s their job to facilitate communication between our research projects, and between Oranga and other Ngā Rākau Taketake themes. They will evaluate, question and make suggestions on our research so we can make sure each research team will achieve the best possible outcomes.

Highlights Ngā Mahi Whakahirahira

As the programme approaches its final months our team is focused on our remaining objectives, including:

  • the completion and opening of the wānanga facility and extending the rongoā approach across kaurilands in an effort to maximise kauri ora impacts and positive outcomes;
  • operations of a sonic station (equipment used to play soundscapes of healthy kauri forests to unhealthy kauri forests) at a third site of kauri mate. Done with resourcing for local hapū to lead efforts to mitigate the harm of kauri mate on kauri in Te Au Warawara, and ongoing field testing by the Kauri Rangers of Te Au Warawara forest in Pawarenga;
  • delivery of a position paper on seed conservation, as well as a seed strategy that includes commentary on Aotearoa New Zealand’s seed conservation capability, appropriate seed protocols, and seed conservation case studies;
  • hosting a joint seed wānanga with the botanical gardens in late 2023;
  •  finalising our impact framework and sharing the kaumātua-developed guidelines for researchers engaging with Māori;
  • the sharing of our research impacts and outcomes with communities both nationally and internationally. This includes the Native American Indigenous Studies Association conference in Toronto, the International Congress on Biological Invasions in Christchurch, and the International Congress on Plant Pathology in France.

Co-leads Ngā kaiārahi ngātahi


Valance Smith

Valance Smith

Ngāpuhi, Waikato, Ngāti Haina, Ngāti Pākehā
Auckland University of Technology

Melanie Mark-Shadbolt

Melanie Mark-Shadbolt

Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Porou, Te Arawa, Te Āti Awa, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa

Team Members Ngā kaimahi

  • Tohe Ashby – Ngā Tirairaka o Ngāti Hine
  • Jamie Ataria – Rongomaiwahine, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Tūwharetoa; Independent
  • Te Taiawatea Moko-Painting – Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Porou, Waikato oku; Te Tira Whakamātaki
  • Marcus-Rongowhitiao Shadbolt – Te Arawa, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Porou; Te Tira Whakamātaki
  • Simon Lambert – Tūhoe, Ngāti Ruapani ki Waikaremoana; University of Saskatchewan
  • Mariella Marzano; Forest Research, Scotland
  • Joanne Murray; Te Aho Tū Roa

Research Partners Ngā hoa pātui rangahau

Resource outputs from this programme


Oranga Programme – Critical Friend Measurement Framework 2022

The purpose of this framework is to help us measure progress at the Oranga Program level. This means that the contents of this report, although…
View Report

Oranga and Te Mauri o te Kauri – Melanie Mark-Shadbolt and Valance Smith

Presented by Oranga co-leads and researchers Valance Smith and Melanie Mark-Shadbolt as part of the Kaurilands Summit 2023, hosted by Ngā Rākau Taketake.   Find…
View Presentation
Tool or Model

Myrtle Rust Science Stocktake

A list of past and current research focussed on biology, impacts and management of myrtle rust is now available. This updated stocktake builds on work…
View Tool or Model
Tool or Model

Kauri Dieback Science Stocktake

A list of past and current research focused on biology, impacts and management of kauri dieback is now available. This updated stocktake builds on work…
View Tool or Model

Oranga 2022

Oranga is a suite of kaupapa Māori projects that aim to restore the collective health of trees, forests and people. The team will do this…
View Video

Saving a forest from kauri dieback with rongoā Māori

As the fight against kauri dieback continues, a traditional Maori healer is using indigenous medicine to help save the ancient trees. Tohe Ashby belongs to…
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Traditional Māori medicine helps kauri health, long-term monitoring suggests 

Trees impacted by kauri dieback disease are showing signs of recovery thanks to traditional Māori medicine, a practitioner says. Rongoā Māori practitioner Tohe Ashby has…
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Ancient Rongoā Māori practices to fight Kauri dieback are part of a broader revival of indigenous traditional practices in NZ

Traditional Rongoā Māori health practitioners claim indigenous treatments are curing Kauri trees of dieback and the Government is investing.
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Investment in seed banks could pay off against climate change

Some of New Zealand’s native fauna and flora are critically endangered and there are concerns this country isn’t adequately safeguarding native seeds. Seed banking is…
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