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Under-utilised Mäori land targeted for improvement

Monday, June 16, 2008

Under-utilised Mäori land targeted for improvement

A combination of whakapapa, land-use modelling and customary knowledge is seen as the key to improving the utilisation and sustainable development of Mäori land with multiple owners.

Four organisations representing owners of more than 28,000ha of Mäori land are working with a team led by Dr Tanira Kingi of Massey University to develop a new framework to help other landowners decide how best to use their resources.

The three-year programme, called Integrated Mäori Land and Resource Development: A Decision-Support Framework (“Iwi Futures”), is a collaboration between Massey and Landcare Research (Manaaki Whenua), AgResearch, Scion and Te Arawa Lakes Trust. The programme has received significant backing from Te Puni Kökiri and support from the Mäori Land Court, the Office of the Mäori Trustee and the Federation of Mäori Authorities.

In February it received $2.4 million funding from the Foundation for Research Science and Technology.

Dr Kingi says the programme is going well. "We have completed the initial stage of building relationships, developing working agreements and establishing expectations with each of the case study organisations and collaborators," he says. Detailed fieldwork is now underway.

“Our main aim is to provide a generic, easily accessible framework that is relevant to Mäori land owners throughout the country. The framework is a unique attempt to integrate socio-cultural imperatives with comprehensive land-resource assessments and complex simulation modelling.

“The programme is also built on a whakapapa [genealogy] and tikanga [customary practice] approach to research. One of our underpinning principles is to make sure we have team members that have a tribal affiliation to each of the case study groups to ensure meaningful outcomes and an awareness of local iwi and hapu dynamics.

"We also want to build continuity beyond the programme and so we’ve provided funding to each of the case study groups for one of their landowners to work within our team and be trained as a researcher."

The four case study organisations and their tribal linkages are: Ngäti Hine Health Trust Incorporated (Ngäti Hine); Paehinahina Mourea Trust (Te Arawa); Waimarama Incorporation (Ngäti Kahungunu) and Aohanga Incorporation (Ngäti Kahungunu, Ngäti Rangitäne).

They were chosen because they were representative of the many issues facing Mäori landowners, Dr Kingi says.

“These include high numbers of owners registered against land titles, large numbers of titles without management or administrative structures and land that faces heavy regulatory constraints because of its proximity to fragile environments like coastlines, rivers or lakes."

The first phase of the fieldwork involves qualitative data collection to identify owners' development priorities and understand their decision-making processes.

“We will also work closely with key members in the case study organisations to assist in the identification of cultural landscape information such as waahi tapu [places of importance] and to develop a system where that information can be recorded and stored in a database such as a Geographic Information System.

“Quite often waahi tapu like urupa [cemeteries] are not included in farm management plans and are therefore open to damage. By setting up a system to capture and store this information owners can more effectively attend to their role as kaitiaki [guardians] and make sure that this information is included in management plans.”

The second phase of the project includes collecting publicly-available data from Mäori land courts and other government bodies and local and regional councils.

“This work provides a solid base for detailed land assessments at the paddock or block level. These assessments will be carried out for specific areas on each of the case study properties.”

The third phase will involve analysis of the information gathered using computer software tools developed to aid pastoral and horticultural farming, forestry, and aquaculture ventures as well as geothermal and rural tourism businesses.

The fourth phase will build visualisation and decision-making tools.

“We have modelling specialists in our team that are able to simulate landscape changes alongside social and cultural indicators so that changes can be seen graphically by landowners for 20, 50 or 100 years in the future. This is an exciting tool to build awareness of issues and develop capability for improved decision-making."

Dr Kingi says the findings from the programme will be disseminated through reports, published papers and at local and national hui. An interactive website, due to be launched at the end of August, will include examples of how to use and apply the framework.

The Massey team members are: Dr Kingi (Ngäti Whakaue, Te Arawa), Associate Professor Huia Jahnke (Ngäti Hine, Ngäti Kahungunu, Ngäi Tahu), and Dr Annemarie Gillies (Ngäti Kahungunu, Te Arawa).
From AgResearch: Dr Greg Lambert, Dr Liz Wedderburn, Dr Chris Dake and Dr Alec Mackay.
From Landcare Research: Garth Harmsworth (Te Arawa, Ngäti Raukawa) and Oscar de Oca Munguia.
From Scion: Dr Oliver Chikumbo.
From Te Arawa Lakes Trust: Dr Tepora Emery (Ngäti Pikiao, Ngäti Whakaue, Te Arawa).

Case study key contacts are: Rob Cooper and Percy Tipene from Ngäti Hine Health Trust, Barnett Vercoe from Paehinahina Mourea Trust, Robert MacDonald from Waimarama Incorporation and Mavis Mullins from Aohanga Incorporation.


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