Environmental agency to incorporate mātauranga

By Jessica Tyson

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has launched a mātauranga framework to help their kaimahi incorporate Māori perspectives and mātauranga evidence into their decision-making.

The principal adviser in Kaupapa Kura Taiao, the EPA’s Māori advisory team, Erica Gregory, says the framework is the first of its kind to be developed for a New Zealand regulator.

“The tool will help decisionmakers do exactly what they do with marine knowledge, with geological information, toxicological information, to help them do the same with that type of information with mātauranga.”

The EPA is the government agency responsible for regulating activities that affect New Zealand's environment. The goals of this new framework are to increase the understanding of mātauranga across the EPA, and ensure the EPA understands the issues and implications of mātauranga for its decision making processes.

Gregory says there is no one definition for mātauranga but it could be described as a unique knowledge and understanding of te taiao, the natural environment.

“It has its own unique characteristics that are as valid as, but different from, other knowledge systems including science. A simple example of mātauranga would be the Māori consideration that when a pōhutukawa tree is in blossom it is also a good time to harvest kina.”

Mātauranga evidence

James Doherty, who recently stepped down from Ngā Kaihautū Tikanga Taiao says the EPA has consulted a wide range of sources including academics, judges, kaumātua, kaitiaki and environmental resource practitioners to develop the framework.

“For many years EPA decisionmakers were confident to turn over the stones of familiar knowledge systems and scrutinise what lies beneath but their confidence and ability to turn over the stones of Māori perspectives was limited. This new framework will provide decisionmakers and staff the tools to assess mātauranga evidence more effectively.”

Chief executive Allan Freeth says he’s proud of the framework’s launch which he started working on three years ago.

“I thank those who’ve helped us reach this point in our journey, particularly Ngā Kaihautū Tikanga Taiao, Te Herenga, and Ngā Parirau o te Mātauranga. It has truly been partnership in action.”

The EPA plans to implement mātauranga into its decision-making, policies and processes by June 2021.