Case Study – Mäori community goals for enhancing ecosystem health

Case Study – Mäori community goals for enhancing ecosystem health

The FRST programme “Mäori Community Goals for Enhancing Ecosystem Health” (FRST Contract TWWX0001) began in 1998. The programme evolved from a previous FRST-funded programme “Mäori values for land use planning” that ran from 1995 to 1998, and helped build collaborative research relationships with Ngati Porou. The “Mäori values .” programme involved working with five main iwi: Ngati Porou, Rangitane, Te Whanau a Apanui, Ngai Tahu, and Ngati Tuwharetoa. A number of other iwi and hapu became involved as the project progressed.

Mäori Community Goals for Enhancing Ecosystem Health is one of a few collaborative iwi-Crown Research Institute projects in New Zealand. Present research is being carried out in the highly degraded and modified Waiapu catchment, Ruatoria, and the Gisborne-East Cape region, and the iwi research is based in Ruatoria. The Waiapu district population is largely Mäori, and the community mainly affiliated to the iwi Ngati Porou, to whom the catchment is of great spiritual, cultural, physical and economic significance. ‘Community’ is therefore defined as all those living in, having a cultural relationship with, or significant interest in the Waiapu catchment.

A large number of issues in the Gisborne East Coast region affected the way the project was developed and written, particularly in terms of methods employed for community participation and making the research as relevant to the community as possible. Social and economic disparities and problems, such as poor housing, health problems and health care, high unemployment, low attainment of educational qualifications, low socio-economic levels, drug-use, are widespread in the East Coast. Key environmental and cultural issues identified at inception of the programme included: the catchment is prone to high intensity rainstorms and flooding; has a complex mix of unstable rock types that exacerbate erosion problems; the Waiapu river has one of the highest sediment yields in the world; sediment is affecting the adjacent coastal and marine environment; and the environmental change has had considerable impact on Mäori values and resources.

In terms of funding, this programme is small, $150k (incl. GST) per annum. It comprises one objective split into three main, but interrelated, areas of work:

(a) Determining the best mix of communication strategies to facilitate dialogue and participation with the Waiapu community, and between the community and those stakeholders with an interest in sustainable catchment management.
(b) Recording and collecting local knowledge and traditional Mäori knowledge about the catchment to gain understanding of Mäori values, and the spatial and temporal changes in the catchment, particularly since deforestation and land development. The information is required to characterise catchment condition, environmental change, and catchment health from a Mäori perspective and also to form and articulate community aspirations.
(C) Mainstream scientific research to characterise catchment condition and determine catchment factors, such as erosion and sedimentation, affecting river health.

The three parts of the objective all contribute to the development of knowledge and improved understanding of catchment health and environmental processes from both Mäori and mainstream science perspectives. To date, a number of communication and information exchange/information dissemination methods have been tried and evaluated. These have included: hui, seminars-workshops, an art competition, interviews, field visits/discussion, participatory field work with TWONP students, panui-newsletters, radio station airplay, maps, posters, house visits and personal discussion, and presentations at schools.

Much of the recording of local knowledge has involved using semi-structured interviews. A Mäori research approach ¾ kaupapa Mäori research ¾ has been used, including Mäori interviewing techniques by trained interviewers and use of te reo Mäori. Historical research using archives, historic photographs, manuscripts, minute books, and museum and Mäori Land Court records has also been used. Methods are being developed to link Mäori knowledge from this part of the objective to mainstream science knowledge.

Characterisation of catchment condition has involved reconnaissance fieldwork, surveys, and interpretation and analysis of existing environmental databases. Thematic Mäori knowledge will be linked to this mainstream science knowledge as it becomes available. This part of the objective is building a number of GIS biophysical and cultural coverages for visual communication, modelling, and statistical summary of catchment factors.

The three parts of the objective contribute to knowledge and improved understanding of catchment health and environmental processes from both Mäori and mainstream science sources. This is being used to construct a temporal and spatial record of how the catchment has changed through time, particularly since deforestation. An important aspect of the research is to document, by constructing oral, written, and scientific records, the incidence of repeated storm, erosion, and flooding events, that have had a great effect on the people of the Waiapu. A large number of interviews, many with Mäori elders, have so far been carried out to record local Mäori knowledge historical events. Community participation in the project has been encouraged through the use of less formal interviews and discussion with individuals and community groups, hui, an art competition, newsletters, and presentations by iwi researchers at various venues including schools. Results indicate that the deforestation and land development of the last 100 years has had enormous impact on cultural values and Mäori well-being through loss of flora and fauna, decreased access to traditional resources, increased flooding, and the continuing decline in the mauri (life force or health) of the river and the quality of its resources through deposition of enormous quantities of sediment.

A comprehensive knowledge base of Mäori and mainstream science knowledge on the Waiapu catchment has been built and will be accessible to the community, stakeholders, and future generations. Cultural benefits accruing from such a knowledge base include the formation of a Ngati Porou archive on environmental, cultural, social and economic knowledge, and from interviews, the recordings and documentation of Ngati Porou te reo, including pepeha or whakatauki. Information from the project will ultimately be used to target and prioritise catchment rehabilitation and to develop sustainable catchment management scenarios, using a balance of environmental, economic, social and cultural factors.

Management of the programme

The programme is managed by Te Whare Wananga o Ngati Porou, Ruatoria, with newly appointed manager, Josie Tangaere, and administrator, Maria Wynyard. The programme has a Ngati Porou management committee; the programme leader is Rei Kohere, now based at the Mäori heritage section of Historic Places Trust in Wellington; and a full-time iwi researcher based in Ruatoria. It contracts part-time staff when necessary. The present iwi researcher, Tui Warmenhoven, replaced the first iwi researcher, Pia Pohatu (now Te Puni Koikiri, Gisborne), in late 1999. Manaaki Whenua is sub-contracted to Te Whare Wananga o Ngati Porou, Ruatoria, for the duration of the programme. The programme employs four Manaaki Whenua staff, who each have small amounts of time budgeted in the programme. Budgets allow about 2-3 field visits per year to Ruatoria and the Waiapu catchment. Reciprocal visits by Ngati Porou researchers to Palmerston North are determined by available resources, but usually number two per year.

Establishing relationships

The ‘Mäori values…’ programme brought the key Manaaki Whenua researcher in 1994- 1996 into contact with many members of the iwi Ngati Porou. Contact was first made with Tamati Reedy (now Professor of Mäori and Pacific Development, University of Waikato) and others in Wellington, and subsequently with the Ngati Porou council of Te Runanga o Ngati Porou (TRONP) in Ruatoria. Initial contacts included hui presentations, part of a formal process within the ‘Mäori values…’ programme, which provided a platform and basis for developing future relationships with Ngati Porou. These contacts then led to meetings with Apirana Mahuika and Ned Ihaka, chairman at the time of TRONP.

Further meetings followed, with other Ngati Porou representatives, and with their ‘environmental and Treaties research team’: Vianney Douglas, Rei Kohere, Matu Ihaka, and Deanna Harrison and, later, Pia Pohatu. A number of other capable researchers and communicators were also working on projects for Ngati Porou and for various hapu and Ngati Porou organisations. It was evident that Ngati Porou had an ‘identifiable research capability’ with this ‘team’.

Ngati Porou had been successful in proposals for funding, and had managed well the projects it led. Much of its funding for research projects was received through Te Runanga O Ngati Porou and Crown Forest Rental Trust as part the Treaty claims process. Ngati Porou researched and compiled information for Treaty claims, and also undertook some planning and environmental work. The Ngati Porou team subsequently received funding from MfE in the mid-1990s to complete projects on ‘hapu environmental management plans’ and, under Te Ohu Kaimoana funding, on ‘customary fisheries’. The research team also developed a Geographic Information System (GIS) database for Te Runanga O Ngati Porou and carried out projects including: cultural heritage mapping; the collation of land resource information for the Gisborne-East Coast; environmental planning; development of skills for recording cultural knowledge; development of environmental and cultural databases; iwi and hapu management plans; and GIS. From a Manaaki Whenua perspective there were many potential synergies to work in this area and a strong basis for research collaboration.

Manaaki Whenua’s relationship with Ngati Porou during the “Mäori values.” programme led to providing them with environmental data; discussing and sharing research methods; sharing research results; providing useful Manaaki Whenua science information directly to them; socialising with the research team; jointly presenting information at hui; helping interpret land resource information for the Gisborne East Coast; regular contact and information sharing during the 2nd edition mapping of the New Zealand Land Resource Inventory (NZLRI); bringing the Ngati Porou research team into contact with other Crown Research Institute researchers, particularly those in relevant programmes such as the FRST-funded Waipaoa research, and the ‘Land Resource Information’ programme. A training course in GIS and remote sensing held in Palmerston North was attended by a number of iwi groups including Ngati Porou. Generally, there was regular contact and dialogue with Ngati Porou, overlaps and interaction when attending hui, conferences, workshops, and regular visits by Ngati Porou representatives to Manaaki Whenua in Palmerston North. Reciprocal visits were made to Gisborne, mainly to Te Runanga O Ngati Porou offices, and to various East Coast locations, including Ruatoria, when Manaaki Whenua staff worked in the Gisborne-East Coast.

Mäori community goals for enhancing ecosystem health: developing the joint iwi-CRI programme

The next direction in the relationship with Ngati Porou was determined by two main factors:
•FRST had indicated cessation of funding to the ‘Mäori values…’ programme;
•Ngati Porou had indicated a strong interest in working with Manaaki Whenua to develop a new programme of research; to develop the programme as a joint iwi-CRI research project; to centre it in the Gisborne-East Coast region; to focus it at a Mäori community level; and jointly to submit the proposal for funding to FRST. The iwi also indicated a strong preference to become custodians for any future programme and to manage any community-based research from either Gisborne or Ruatoria.

In early 1997 a joint decision between Ngati Porou and Manaaki Whenua was made to write a proposal for submission to FRST for 1998- 2000 funding. It was decided any funding received would be shared equally, and Manaaki Whenua would subsequently be sub-contracted by Ngati Porou to work in the programme alongside iwi researchers, Ngati Porou representatives, and the community.

During 1997 a number of hui were held in Ruatoria and Palmerston North, to:
•capture ideas;
•provide a framework and time-frame for writing the proposal;
•identify Ngati Porou issues;
•identify scientific and environmental issues for Gisborne-East Coast;
•identify possible future areas to in which to work and, in particular, communities to work with;
•identify key types of research both parties wanted to pursue;
•develop research themes based on issues;
•agree on the time-frame for the research;
•identify expenses and prepare preliminary budgets;
•identify key personnel;
•decide on a title, and start writing the proposal
•decide which Mäori organisation within Ngati Porou should lead and administer the joint research programme (the main choices being Te Runanga o Ngati Porou, and Te Whare Wananga o Ngati Porou) or whether it should be led by a community committee.

Most of the hui were half- or full-day meetings, with informal discussion, usually centred on a whiteboard. All information from each hui was written up and notes were supplied to all involved in the hui. Regular contact was kept through e-mail, phone conversations, post mail, and visits. Key people at hui included Garth Harmsworth and Noel Trustrum from Manaaki Whenua, and Vianney Douglas, Rei Kohere, Matu Ihaka, and Deanna Harrison from Ngati Porou.

As the key issues were determined, the area around the Waiapu River started to emerge as a study priority. The decline in the health or mauri of the Waiapu River was of huge concern to Ngati Porou. Focusing research on the Waiapu River would provide a link to other objectives and community support. To understand the river, it was essential to understand the whole Waiapu catchment area, and to identify the spatial and temporal changes and cumulative effects that had led to the decline in the mauri of the river. Mäori philosophy supported an integrated ‘mountains to the sea’ approach that looked holistically at the larger area around the river, the coast, and the marine environment. It was also agreed that it was imperative to understand the relationship between people and the environment, and record knowledge of the whenua (the land) and awa (river) from both a Mäori and scientific perspective.

Key criteria on which the decision to develop the ‘Waiapu’ research was based included: the area’s cultural significance to Ngati Porou; the fact that it was largely a Mäori community with complex social, cultural and political relationships; community interest in the area (and therefore potential for community support); the area’s environmental issues, including being the most highly degraded catchment in the Gisborne East Coast; and the location of many of the Ngati Porou representatives involved in hui were from the northern area in proximity to Ruatoria.

Through hui, it was agreed that the best strategy for the Programme would be to carry out research which sought to:
•increase community participation and develop methods for involving the community in the research;
•develop a Mäori knowledge component that could establish a knowledge base on Ngati Porou values, environmental and cultural knowledge, historical knowledge and te reo;
•carry out mainstream science research both to acquire biophysical knowledge and to better understand catchment condition and process; identify from a science perspective the cause in the deterioration in the ‘health’ of the Waiapu River, particularly during the last 100 years, and to provide some possible future land-use scenarios that would improve the health of the river and sustain cultural values.

These formed the basis of the three inter-related parts of the programme. There was agreement that both Mäori knowledge and mainstream science findings should be combined to improve understanding of the catchment condition and show environmental change within a historical context, and that information resulting from the project should be used, in conjunction with the community, for future sustainable land management planning.

Writing and submitting the proposal

The programme was written over approximately 1 year, with one concentrated writing spell over 3 months in late 1997. The proposal was written by Manaaki Whenua staff who had access to science planning resources, and were experienced in the FRST proposal, process, criteria language, and format. It was agreed during the writing process, after much discussion amongst Ngati Porou representatives, that the proposal would be submitted under the organisation title, Te Whare Wananga o Ngati Porou.

The original proposal asked for $600k, but in early 1998 notification was received of only $150k funding. The work proposed in the original proposal was therefore reduced to fit the new budget, and the three objectives originally proposed were combined into one. Ngati Porou’s contribution was reduced to one iwi researcher and some sub-contract work, largely for interviews, while Manaaki Whenua reduced its planned research to a reconnaissance study of the Waiapu catchment and considerably lessened time for each researcher. A six-page memorandum of understanding (MOU) was drawn up between Ngati Porou and Manaaki Whenua to proceed with work. The MOU included sections on protocols, arbitration, intellectual property rights and a schedule of work and expected outputs.

The programme has now been running since 1998 and has experienced some resourcing and staffing difficulties. Ngati Porou have had difficulty retaining staff, especially in Ruatoria, and there have been communication difficulties due to staff movements and lack of Ngati Porou resources. The Ngati Porou ‘research team’ described earlier, effectively dis-established around 1999, partly because of resourcing and financial difficulties. Both Te Runanga o Ngati Porou and Te Whare Wananga o Ngati Porou have undergone restructuring since the programme’s inception. The programme is now jointly managed between Te Whare Wananga, who administer the project financially, programme leader and manager Rei Kohere (now based in Wellington), and Garth Harmsworth, Manaaki Whenua, who manages and coordinates the research and planning. Garth overseas much of the technical research, liases with Ngati Porou, communicates regularly with the iwi researcher in Ruatoria and the programme manager in Wellington, and shares programme manager duties with Rei Kohere. Rei is also Treaty claims manager for Ngati Porou and is actively involved in Ngati Porou affairs.

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Reference list: Land Care Research. 2018. Retrieved from

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