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How one thing leads to another – building long and deep relationships in effective land management

Manaaki Taiao is a rōpū (group) made up of Manaaki Whenua Kairangahau Māori (Māori researchers) working on Māori-led research projects within a range of science portfolios.
Floyd Walker working on the āwheto (kumara caterpillar) project

Floyd Walker working on the āwheto (kumara caterpillar) project

We work with iwi, hapū, and communities to develop strategic planning, policy, and monitoring tools informed by Mātauranga Māori and science to support kaitiakitanga. Over time, we are building strategic partnerships with our Māori partners for mutual benefit – our enduring relationship with the Te Awahohonu Forest Trust, Northern Hawke’s Bay, is an excellent example.

Dr Nikki Harcourt, a senior researcher in the Manaaki Taiao group, was initially approached by the Trust to provide a Kaupapa Māori land-use opportunities assessment for their Tarawera C9 block, based on Manaaki Taiao’s reputation in the land assessment space. Tarawera C9 comprises some 10,000 ha of pristine indigenous forest with lowland podocarp and high-altitude beech. It also has another 15,000 ha of plantation pine and areas of reversion scrub, is bordered by five rivers, and has very high biodiversity.

Further alignment of MWLR capabilities with Trust aspirations has led to the initiation of studies on āwheto (kumara caterpillar), huhu, and social research.

In the spirit of reciprocity, we have created a summer internship for Floyd Walker, one of the Trust’s uri (descendants), who is working with Dr Eva Biggs and Dr Claudia Lange on the āwheto project. Dr Harcourt is supporting their rongoā wānanga, having worked with Pa (Rob) McGowan to provide the Trust with advice; together they will be present at the rongoā wānanga in March 2021.

The Trust’s long-term aspiration is to develop a research hub and wellness retreat, and they are excited about the potential to explore an enduring relationship with Manaaki Whenua. It is also really important for us to be able to whakamana back to the Trust. The core purpose of our Manaaki Taiao rōpū is to empower kaitiaki, and we acknowledge that our partners are not a repository of information and resources for us to mine. We are proud to empower our Māori partners by sharing our knowledge and co-developing new knowledge in ways that are truly useful for them.

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