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Māori Chief Science Advisors Recommended – Expert Reaction

A new report says Māori and Pacific experts are being excluded from science advice and key decision-making roles, including in the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga report recommends appointing Māori Chief Science Advisors in key government agencies, creating Tiriti-based guidelines for science and innovation funding, and in the medium term, establishing an independent Mātauranga Māori entity.

The SMC asked the report’s authors to comment.

Professor Tahu Kukutai, Te Rūnanga Tātari Tatauranga (National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis), University of Waikato, comments:

“There are two things that make this report significant. One is that it interrogates – from an unapologetically Māori vantage point – how science and evidence shapes policymaking. Unsurprisingly, it finds that the current approach marginalises Māori experts, knowledge and priorities, with harmful consequences for Māori and Aotearoa more broadly.

“It argues for a Tiriti-led approach that is equity focused, more ‘bottom up’ than ‘top down’, and that draws on Mātauranga Māori and community expertise in far more timely and connected ways.

“The second point of the difference relates to the authors. Collectively they cover every part of the research, science and innovation system and bring with them a huge amount of expertise and experience, in Te Ao Māori and in Pākehā-dominated institutions and settings. They have been up close and personal with the science-policy interface for decades and they know it isn’t working for Māori, or indeed for many other communities.

“The collective wisdom they offer in the report is more than a wero – it’s an agenda for change, with clear and actionable recommendations. The real test will be whether those with the power to make the changes are actually up for it.”

Conflict of interest statement: Professor Kukutai co-authored this report.

Professor Tracey McIntosh, Professor of Indigenous Studies and Co-Head of Te Wānanga o Waipapa (School of Māori Studies and Pacific Studies), University of Auckland, comments:

“Deeply embedded social inequities, the intergenerational reach of the prison, and the degradation of our land and waterways – none of these are intractable issues. All are amenable to change.

“This report clearly demonstrates the strength of drawing on disciplinary, cultural and place-based expertise to generate new knowledge, sustainable solutions and shape evidence-based, culturally-informed policy practice. A Tiriti-led science-policy approach for Aotearoa offers a critical opportunity to support the vision of a just and equitable society.”

Conflict of interest statement: Professor McIntosh co-authored this report.

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