Hui-te-ana-nui: Understanding kaitiakitanga in our marine environment

Waka voyage. © Takiwai Russell-Sullivan, University of Otago

We have examined mātauranga Māori associated with the marine environment by analysing key texts, historical archives, literature, reports and legislation.

Project leader: Anne-Marie Jackson, University of Otago (Ngāti Whātua)

Duration: June 2016 – May 2017 
Budget:  $120,000 
Status: Completed

Mātauranga Māori is a complex system of experiential knowledge that comprises intergenerational beliefs, values and practices that contribute to the sustainable management of the marine environment. The ethic and practice of kaitiakitanga (spiritual and physical guardianship) is one expression of mātauranga that Māori continue to observe and draw upon. 

Understanding, developing and retaining mātauranga and kaitiakitanga specific to the marine environment is vital for ecosystem-based management (EBM) in New Zealand. It is crucial for developing spiritual, cultural, social, environmental and economic practices, indicators and metrics that are relevant. Prior to this study, there was no single repository or index of marine mātauranga and kaitiakitanga.  

For this project, we used Kaupapa Māori and critical discourse analysis to examine mātauranga associated with the marine environment by researching archives and reviewing key texts. Our project was Māori-led, with a Māori research team and advisory group. The overarching kaupapa (core main finding) of our research is the hononga tāngaengae (unbroken connection) between Māori and the marine environment from time immemorial to today.  

Our research has identified themes that are important to consider when making decisions about the marine environment. We have referenced mātauranga sources, and signposted where to find the information needed to make informed decisions about use of New Zealand’s marine resources. Our research report will be of practical use to anyone with an interest in marine resource management, including iwi and hapū, community groups, environmental NGOs, central and regional government, policy makers, industry and researchers.  

Final research report:

This report is of practical use to anyone with an interest in marine resource management, including: iwi and hapū, community groups, environmental NGOs, central government, regional councils, policy makers, industry and researchers. 

It explains themes identified by the research and why they are important to consider in decision-making. It also indexes the reference sources of this varied mātauranga, and signposts where to go for further detail so Māori communities and resource managers (and others with an interest) can find the information they need to make an informed decision about how to better use our marine resources.

Latest news and updates

Assessing marine ecosystems to improve management

Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge researchers are hoping that marine health data gathered on a recent field trip to Queen Charlotte Sounds will support more integrated management of the ecosystem.

Developing ecosystem-based management principles for NZ

The Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge leadership team have proposed seven major principles for ecosystem-based management (EBM) in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Growing a successful and sustainable Māori marine economy

The Sustainable Seas research team led by Dr John Reid and Dr Jason Mika have identified five key factors that will drive growth of the Māori marine economy: