View all publications

Māori ways of knowing and monitoring the marine environment

A Māori world view (te ao Māori) acknowledges the interconnectedness of all living things, their dependence on each other, and the links between the life-supporting capacity of healthy ecosystems and people’s well-being (Harmsworth & Awatere, 2013). Mātauranga Māori (Māori systems of knowledge) have developed over hundreds of years since Polynesian settlement and are intricately woven with te reo Māori (Māori language) and whakapapa (ancestral lineage).

For Māori, the deep kinship between people and the natural world creates an obligation to care for the environment and maintain it for future generations. This obligation is expressed as kaitiakitanga – the cultural practice of guardianship and environmental management grounded in mātauranga Māori (Royal, 2015).

Māori cultural heath indicators can support environmental decision-making

Māori communities are putting kaitiakitanga into practice around New Zealand to restore environmental health and reclaim their traditional knowledge (Royal, 2015). Some iwi and hapū are regularly monitoring marine areas using cultural health indicators to show trends or changes in the health of the marine environment.

Cultural health indicators support kaitiakitanga and Māori use of the environment, but they can also benefit all New Zealanders by providing a deeper understanding of the marine environment.

In this report, we tell the story of one hapū’s work to develop indicators for monitoring the health of Ōkahu Bay, near Auckland (see Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, Ōkahu Bay – aligning mātauranga and science to restore mauri). We are committed to evolving our programme to support Māori decision-making and well-being. See Reporting environmental impacts on te ao Māori: A strategic scoping document for our strategic direction on using te ao Māori in our environmental reports.