Ngāti Porou Taiao Hub

The Waiapu catchment is the sacred ancestral river of the Māori people. The symbiotic relationship of the catchment and the indigenous people’s cultural wellbeing is of primary concern. When the  New Zealand government was established in  1853, and  subsequent  local  governments were formed, the management and decision making for the freshwater  and  natural  resources of  the river  was  taken  away  from the people.

This project of establishing the Te Poho o Huturangi Taiao Hub is an actual step towards the  Maoris’ self-determination and reclaiming of culture and resources. A series of workshops was conducted to ensure that all tribes were consulted for the processing of resource consent applications. Thus the Hub which is now operational, facilitates workshops on environmental and resource management. This has the approval or consent of tribes and sub-tribes whose cultural values and concerns are considered.  

The  network  of  specialists  on geomorphology  and  hydrology  interference was created to  advise subtribes to identify  the cultural  values  related to the sub-catchment  plants. A cultural wellbeing matrix was developed that also serves as a monitoring framework for subtribes who have reclaimed ancestral sub-catchments. They consider their food systems, gathering activities around the river, art forms such as carvings  and  weavings in  gathering  spaces, songs, prayers, oratory  arts,  and  their  prayers.  For example, the  subtribes  in  the  upper  catchment  use  the  phrase  “Waiapu  Mother  of  Many”  to  describe  their  relationship  with  the  river. The  subtribes  in  the  lower  catchment who are risk-prone, use the  term “The  waters  that  devour  land  and  people.” These are both ancient sayings describing the river’s nature in different parts of  the  catchment. These  also provide  some  grounding  and  cultural  context  for  the  values  and  relationships  the  people  have  with  the  river.

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Through an  education  program and resource  management  workshops, the subtribes  track  and  respond  to  the  needs  of  the  river,  and  their own  needs  as  people  of  the  river. They decide over their  own  freshwater  and  natural  resources,  securing  the  ecological  wellbeing  and  food  systems.  By tracking  and  assessing  the  wellbeing  of their  river  through  the  various  types  of  land use,  they are able  to  hold  the government and  industries accountable  for  the  impacts  they  deal on the Maori  territories.  The  reduction  of  harmful  impacts  and  focus  on an  ecologically  regenerative landscape encourage the return of the people, and re-kindle their  sacred relationship  to, and nurturance of  the river.

The Hub  became a post  for  communities  to  be aware  of  activities  along the  river, in a way reclaiming their  involvement  in  the  management  of  the  river  that was lost  for  many  generations, and enabled the people  to deal with contemporary  challenges.  Elders  and  bearers of knowledge  relating  to the river  shared  their  memories  and  knowledge  with  the  community  to  guide  the  discussions  and  center  them  in  their own  Ngati  Porou  truth.  Majority of the workshop participants were women and they comprise the monitoring team with one male elder. The youth too, consistently participated in all the workshops.

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The project has resulted in better relationships between the local subtribes and industry  applicants who, at times, provide their  forestry  harvest  plans. A  permanent  relationship  between technicians and the subtribes has been developed with confidence-building and cooperation on matters of training and  scholarships  in  freshwater  ecology,  river  engineering  and  geomorphology  for the benefit of the tribe. 

Monitoring is done with traditional calendrical systems. The people arerebuilding ancient ecologicalcalendars on phases of work, abundance and rest and re-learning river traditions (prayers,songs,ceremonies) as a measure of the wellbeing of their river. By using GIS technology and oldsurveymapsfromthe1800s, old maps were layered over the top of Google earth to return the ancestral names of mountains, rivers, and landscapes. They engaged all hapu for advice in their preferred protocols for data management and protection of intellectual property through the use of these innovations.

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The project Ngāti  Porou  Taiao  Hub was implemented by He  Oranga  Mo  Nga  Uri  Tuku  Iho  Trust with support from Pawanka Fund.