Scientists look to mātauranga Māori to slow biodiversity decline

By Talisa Kupenga

A BioHeritage Challenge conference has heard that mātauranga Māori could hold the key to reducing the decline in New Zealand's biodiversity.  Scientists and iwi representatives gathered in Wellington to work together to find new ways to protect the country's flora and fauna.

The science sector is taking a leaf from the indigenous knowledge workbook, both groups uniting to preserve biodiversity for future generations.

Ngāti Hine and Ngāpuhi kaumātua Tohe Ashby says, "I don't really agree with some of their views. But we [people] are connected [to the environment] thorough our lineage, because we are the youngest children of Tāne.” 

Māori Biosecurity Network chief executive Melanie Mark-Shadbolt says, "[This conference] is really to talk about those crazy ambitious ideas that are going to help us save our environment, reduce that [biodiversity] decline and solve some of those wicked problems that are facing us."

Iwi representatives say indigenous knowledge and genealogy hold answers mainstream science would otherwise not be able to access.

Waikaremoana, Ngai Tūhoe kaumātua James Waiwai says, "In our karakia, both old and new, there are solutions to help address the threats targeting our environment."

Those in industry are already working to bridge the culture gap, taking different approaches to further empower Māori voices in the science sector.

Mark-Shadbolt says, "The science system needs to be a bit more trusting of Māori and realise that our knowledge comes from observation and comes from testing that we've done over 2,000 years on this land and that is much more rigorous than a science system."

The conference ends Tuesday.