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The Interview Process

Interviews with tangata whenua are an important and effective way of gathering specialist knowledge of the waterways being studied.

The purpose of these interviews is threefold:

  • to identify sites of traditional significance
  • to identify why sites were valued and how they have been used by tangata whenua
  • to identify how sites and the uses of them have changed over time.

The tangata whenua will identify people with the knowledge and right to speak about the river being studied. These are the individuals that the coordinator would interview at the start of the project. Ideally those interviewed would include:

  • kaumātua
  • those who have lived near the river for a long period
  • those who live and work in the area
  • those who are active kaitiaki or engage in mahinga kai activities.

It is essential that the people interviewed have an active relationship with the waterway being studied.

It is recommended that 15 people representing tangata whenua are interviewed.

In the course of the interview the interviewer should cover the following:

  1. Introduce the CHI and invite the persons participation. This can be discussed in the context of having the consent form signed – see Appendix 2. If appropriate, interviews should be taped to record details.
  2. Work through the interview questions below.
  3. When identifying traditional sites during the interview, a map of the river catchment will be required. It is recommended that a plastic overlay be used and sites marked on the plastic with a marker pen during the interview. The name of the site (as known by the interviewee) should be recorded. The table in Appendix 6B will be useful for this.
  4. Mahinga kai sites and the species and materials gathered from the site in the past can be recorded in a table such as the one in Appendix 6B.

Recommended interview questions

  1. Why is this river/stream important to you?
  2. If you could protect five sites in the catchment which sites would you choose? Why would you protect them? (You will need to explain that for the purposes of the study a site is a reach of the river that can be viewed from one point during the study).
  3. How was this river used in the past? What sites were used?
  4. Can you still use each of these sites today?
  5. How is this river used today? What sites are still used?
  6. What mahinga kai sites did you use in the past in this river/stream? What was gathered from these areas? What mahinga kai sites do you still use today? What is gathered from these areas?
  7. For each species identified in the response to Question 6, ask the following:
    • How important was the species in the past?
    • How abundant was the species in the past (relative assessment)
    • What was it used for in the past?
  8. What changes have taken place within the catchment that have affected your traditional sites?
  9. What are the main changes you have seen in this river/stream over the years? The following may be useful prompts:
    • catchment land use
    • river banks
    • river channel
    • flow
    • water quality
    • river mouth.

Interviews should be informal in nature, carried out in a conversational style and free of jargon or technical language. Each interview should last no more than an hour and a half (it may take less but should never be longer).

Organising the interview data

After the interviews have been carried out, the following steps need to be taken to organise the interview data:

  1. Collect the taped interviews together, along with the transcripts of the tape or detailed notes if the interview wasn’t taped.
  2. Produce a list of the sites that interviewees want to see protected.
  3. From the plastic overlays transfer the sites onto one base map. Map references should be recorded for each site. The table in Appendix 6B will be useful for bringing this information together.
  4. Compile the interview data received about mahinga kai sites and the various species or material that was/is gathered there. The table in Appendix 6B will help with this.