Auckland University of Technology
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As the programme approaches its final months our team is focused on our remaining objectives, including: