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Auckland Museum And Ngāti Kuri Receive $13.3m Iwi-led Collaborative Research Grant

“Tō tātou hā i te tuatahi ko te moana, hā tuarua nō tātou te whenua - our first breath is from the ocean our second from the land”- Ngāti Kuri whakatauki.

Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland Museum and Ngāti Kuri have been successful in establishing a joint research programme focused on Rangitāhua / Kermadec Islands. The programme has received $13.3M in research funding from Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment’s Endeavour Fund for a five-year period.

Te mana o Rangitāhua: A holistic approach to transform ecosystem wellbeing, is a five-year research programme in partnership with Ngāti Kuri, with additional partners from University of Auckland, Massey University, NIWA and Manaaki Whenua.

Rangitāhua, halfway between mainland Aotearoa and Tonga, comprises both internationally significant terrestrial nature reserves and one of Aotearoa’s largest marine reserves. It is scientifically identified as one of only four pristine marine ecosystems on Earth that is fully protected, and as a result contains a fully functional ecosystem.

The research programme, co-led by Dr Thomas Trnski (Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum) and Sheridan Waitai (Ngāti Kuri), will focus on the biodiversity and ecosystems of Rangitāhua / Kermadec Islands, alongside a mātauranga lens on translating the resulting research evidence into tangible tools for iwi-led management of the Rangitāhua environment.

Ngāti Kuri, through whakapapa, have an obligation to restore the mauri of their ancestral lands and oceans of Rangitāhua.

Sheridan Waitai, Ngāti Kuri says, “Rangitāhua and all those elements that define its purpose and function reflects our tupuna’s articulation of the contiguous nature of land, sea and people.”

The research team will adopt a transformational approach to informing the ecosystem management of this marine reserve space, by identifying tohu (indicators) of ecosystem change within a kaupapa Māori framework. Iwi, as mana whenua and kaitiaki, will work in partnership with world-leading scientists to build knowledge and develop methods to ensure the resilience of Rangitāhua’s ecosystems.

Rangitāhua presents a highly ambitious, interdisciplinary research programme which considers both social and environmental domains. This research will combine indigenous knowledge and state-of-the-art ecosystem modelling to create the tools to move from “sustainability” to “thrivability”. This is a transformative approach to environmental management by reconnecting, reidentifying, and restorying the cultural, environmental, scientific and geographical prominence of Rangitāhua.

Dr David Gaimster, Chief Executive, Auckland Museum says, “As New Zealand’s oldest research institution, Auckland Museum at its very core supports the advancement and promotion of scientific and cultural scholarship and research. The unique nature of this research, in partnership with Iwi and multiple tertiary institutions, cements the position of Auckland Museum as a nationally, if not internationally leading, research museum. The importance of this grant capture is significant for Auckland Museum, and advances the key objectives of our institution’s peer reviewed public Research Strategy.”

The research will better equip Aotearoa’s response to pressing issues of climate change and ocean health, and leading by example, will strengthen the synergies between mātauranga and science, generating new opportunities for ecological reform.

“Our Research Strategy is underpinned by an active approach to mātauranga Māori, which forms a foundation for all our research activities. As a result of this funding, the largest competitive research grant ever awarded to a museum in New Zealand, Auckland Museum is uniquely placed in Aotearoa to support an indigenous-led research programme,” says Dr Gaimster.

“The Museum has supported research at Rangitāhua for a long time, and in addition to this, has nurtured a collaborative relationship with Ngāti Kuri. Their expert and knowledgeable curatorial staff and researchers, part of a multifaceted workforce, establish Auckland War Memorial Museum as a leader and collaborator within scientific and educational institutions. The success of the additional funding for Te mana o Rangitāhua was in part due to the unique strengths of Auckland Museum,” says Sheridan Waitai, Ngāti Kuri.

Building upon established partnerships between Ngāti Kuri, this work involves renowned researchers and science leaders who are strongly connected to practice and are at the forefront of mātauranga Māori, ecological research, biodiversity conservation and community engagement with science.

This Rangitāhua research will be internationally recognised as an example of indigenous governance of the research and lead to informing holistic ecosystem management. It will generate new models of understanding to safeguard Rangitāhua’s ecosystems, promote resilience and wellbeing, and in turn, create platforms for ecological reform.

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