Tim & Kerri

Māori Engagement and Collaboration

Partnerships – With Descriptor

What was involved in this project?

The reduced ability of Māori to exercise Kaitiakitanga (guardianship) over natural resources has led to a loss of mana. Living Water identified the opportunity for Māori participation in the restoration of indigenous biodiversity as a pathway to restoring Kaitiakitanga.

Consequently, Living Water adopted a long-term approach aimed at building strong relationships with mana whenua. Living Water is helping build mana whenua capacity and capability to restore Kaitiakitanga, and creating opportunities to weave Mātauranga Māori into Living Water project design and delivery.

The purpose of the project was to build strong, stable relationships with mana whenua to enable knowledge sharing, contribute to the protection of our cultural and natural heritage, and grow the scale and impact of Living Water’s work beyond the initial ten-year timeframe (2013-2023).

How was the project undertaken?

To capture the thinking behind our partnership with mana whenua, Living Water adopted a whakataukī (proverb). Whakataukī play a large role within Māori culture. They are used to relate the wisdom of the past and to strengthen korero (speeches). It is a poetic form of the Māori language often merging historical events or holistic perspectives with underlying messages that are influential in Māori society. The Living Water whakataukī is: “He waka hourua, he waka eke noa”. This translates to ‘a waka with two hulls bound by a common kaupapa or purpose’. It acknowledges though indigenous and non-indigenous peoples may be willing to get into the same waka and collaborate on a vision, objectives and outcomes, they can also maintain ‘separate hulls’ to preserve and advance the knowledge, institutions and practices of their own cultures.

After an initial introduction of the programme to iwi representatives Living Water looked at ways to work together including developing a Māori engagement strategy and relationship building principles for teams and working together. These principles include:

  • collaborative partnerships to expand knowledge and grow the scale and impact of work
  • engaging at the appropriate level to match decision-making and Kaitiaki responsibilities
  • investing in building capability and capacity to assist Māori to exercise Kaitiakitanga in the catchments
  • ensuring iwi/hapu co-design solutions for their catchments and exploring ways to weave Mātauranga Māori into all aspects of Living Water’s work including Farm Environment Plans
  • adopting a Living Water Kawa / engagement principles and growing staff capability in Te Reo and Tikanga

Who was involved in the project?

Mana whenua in all five Living Water catchments (Ngā Kaitiaki o Ngā Wai Māori in Wairua River, Northland; Ngāti Paoa in Pūkorokoro-Miranda, Hauraki; Ngāti Apakura and Waikato Tainui in Lakes Areare, Ruatuna, Rotomānuka, Waikato; Ngāi Tahu and Te Taumutu Rūnanga in Ararira-LII River, Canterbury; Ngāi Tahu and Awarua Rūnanga in Waituna, Southland) have participated in the project.

What has this project achieved?

Wairua, Northland

Eight hapū (Ngā Kaitiaki o Ngā Wai Māori) with mana whenua over the Upper Wairua catchment of the Kaipara Harbour have worked with Living Water, to record in writing and video what Mātauranga Māori means to them. Collaboration with this hapū collective and NIWA on a four-year project to survey native fish habitat in the streams and creeks of the Hikurangi Repo/Swamp and catchment, is gathering information to enable the restoration of tuna habitat.

Pūkorokoro Miranda, Hauraki

Ngāti Paoa has joined a community group to establish the Tiaki Repo Ki Pūkorokoro Trust to manage the ecological restoration of a 19.6ha reserve. This reserve will add significant habitat for wildlife along the western shores of Tī Kapa Moana/Firth of Thames and provide a place to tell cultural and conservation stories.

Peat Lakes, Waikato

Ngāti Apakura have agreed to an annual work plan for lakes Ruatuna and Rotomānuka, which includes a cultural health index for monitoring the restoration of these freshwater ecosystems. A garden containing rongoā (medicinal plants) and plants suitable for cultural material harvesting will be developed at Lake Ruatuna. The Department of Corrections has added Ruatuna as an adopted site to their partnership programme and agreed to support the development of this garden.

Ararira-LII River, Canterbury

A rūnanga advisory group (Te Mana Ararira) is being funded to participate in developing the Living Water Annual Plan and integrate Mātauranga Māori into freshwater ecosystem restoration projects in farm waterways and the public drainage network.

Waituna, Southland

The Whakamana Te Waituna partnership is a large scale multi-year collaborative project funded by partners including Ngāi Tahu working to restore rūnanga kaitiaki of Waituna lagoon.

What has been learnt from the project?

Building trust takes time and relies heavily on individuals having strong people skills. Innovation and success is more likely with collective knowledge and shared understanding. The sharing of knowledge is about the process of sharing as much as the knowledge itself. Working together on projects de-mystifies and shrinks actual or perceived knowledge gaps. Using only western science as a project driver limits opportunities.

Funding is a multiple challenge; obtaining funding for restoration projects is difficult for some rural Māori communities, and not everyone may support funding Māori participation.

The Treaty of Waitangi settlements process covering Living Water sites is a much higher priority for Māori and will therefore influence the level of participation in the programme. Like other stakeholders, Māori may move in and out of projects as circumstances require over time.

What does Living Water recommend to other organisations engaging with iwi?

Relationships are critical. Take time to build trust with Māori partners. Empathy and a willingness to work together toward the common good while acknowledging the responsibility your organisation has for the issue are important. Invest in building respectful and resilient relationships to help maintain momentum when circumstances or priorities for Māori change. Understand and acknowledge where Māori are at in their Treaty of Waitangi settlements process.

Funding enables participation. Where possible provide funding to support Māori participation but manage expectations about what your programme can resource, and educate stakeholders who challenge funding for Māori participation.

Share knowledge. Sharing knowledge is an opportunity to develop a mutual respect for each other’s views and experience. Mātauranga Māori is a very broad concept easily incorporated into projects providing a wider range of opportunities that complements western science based approaches.

Ben & Hori by truck