This project combines contemporary science and Kaupapa Māori to investigate the values and management strategies on both Māori and non-Māori owned farms.
Homophones such as whānau (family/birth), hapū (sub-tribe/pregnant), iwi (tribe/bones) and whenua (land/placenta) provide some insight into how Māori relate to the land. The importance of improving native biodiversity for Māori is underpinned by traditional Mātauranga Māori and asserts the relationship Māori have with their whenua.
This relationship is both physical and spiritual which lends to a holistic approach to Māori ecological knowledge. In this way, the traditional ecological knowledge within Mātauranga Māori is essential to the development and strategic direction in enhancing the ecological function of native biodiversity in agroecosystems.
While agroecosystems are primarily managed to harvest the maximum amount of produce and maximise profit, cultural and spiritual relationships are central to Māori views of land. Māori concepts and holistic perspectives such as whakapapa (genealogies), kaitiakitanga (environmental guardianship) and ki uta ki tai (landscape-level approach to managing resources) serve as key cultural markers that underpin a Māori approach to engaging with agroecosystems. As such, Mātauranga Māori must be at the heart of any biodiversity plan to benefit not only Māori farms, but New Zealand farms generally.
We apply this approach in a multi-scale, cross-ecosystem framework that uses social, economic, and ecological measures to understand the connections and feedbacks among land owner decision making, biodiversity, and ecological function. We use both biological and cultural indicators to measure the changing health of the ecosystem over time and space.
"Whatu ngarongaro te tangata, toitū te whenua"
- man will perish but the land will always remain