Written by Simon LambertNick WaiparaAmanda BlackMelanie Mark-ShadboltWaitangi Wood
It is widely acknowledged that Indigenous peoples have traditional knowledge relevant to modern environmental management. By asserting roles within associated science and policy networks, such Indigenous Knowledge (IK) can be seen as part of the resistance to colonisation that includes protest, treaty making, political and economic empowerment, legislation, cultural renaissance and regulatory influence. In New Zealand, these achievements inform attempts by Māori (the Indigenous people of New Zealand) to manage forest ecosystems and cultural keystone species. This chapter presents two case studies of how indigenous participation in modern biosecurity through the example of Māori asserting and contributing to forest management. While progress is often frustratingly slow for indigenous participants, significant gains in acceptance of Māori cultural frameworks have been achieved.
The New Zealand economy relies predominantly on the primary sector, which contributes over 50% of the country’s total export earnings and accounts for over 7% of GDP (New Zealand Treasury 2012). Being an Island nation in the South West Pacific, New Zealand’s native flora and fauna are highly endemic, many having evolved in isolation over 65 million years. Both GDP and the conservation of native flora and fauna are dependent on having manageable levels of pests and diseases, something that is becoming increasingly difficult with the unprecedented levels of global movements of materials and people (McGeoch et al. 2010). Despite biosecurity issues being critical to New Zealand’s biological heritage, policy and management systems have yet to realise and embed the priorities of Māori who are theoretically the government’s formal partner since the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.
There are a growing number of cases in New Zealand where Indigenous Knowledge (IK) contests mainstream science for recognition, support and implementation, although the implementation of this is still problematic (see Prussing and Newbury 2016). In New Zealand, Māori-sourced IK, referred to as mātauranga Māori, has an increasingly important role in environmental management, including protection of biological heritage from biosecurity risks and threats. This chapter discusses two case studies of collaboration between Māori and non-Māori in the biosecurity space, resulting in (some) empowerment of Māori and more efficient biosecurity strategies and programmes.
This chapter proceeds with Mead’s (2003) all-encompassing definition of mātauranga Māori as Māori knowledge and philosophy, thus allowing a contrast with ‘Western’ science and philosophy. It is acknowledged that both these philosophical bases (mātauranga Māori being one of many examples of IK) are dynamic and expanding. Mātauranga Māori also has an intimate connection to Kaupapa Māori (Māori methodology) as both a means to progress research with Māori (Smith 1999; Cunningham 1998) and as the fundamental expression of Māori culture within mainstream research (Pihama et al. 2002). We position Kaupapa Māori as an array of research principles for engaging with Māori in, for example, protecting kauri and other species valued by Māori. These principles are, of course, not limited to Māori-focused research and could be said to be fundamental to any research that relies on human participants (see, e.g. Piddington 1960; Whyte 1981). The justification for professional (and therefore ethical) acknowledgement of Kaupapa Māori (Māori methodology) is that these principles have grown from explicitly localised responses to the perceptions and realities of what Russell Bishop terms ‘epistemological racism’ (Bishop 1999). The grounding in Māori lives, from the use of Māori words and terms to the social and cultural engagement that occurs specific to Māori people and the spaces that they control, presupposes both the legitimacy of Māori knowledge and methodologies.
This chapter presents two case studies of Indigenous biosecurity action from Aotearoa New Zealand. The first concerns the giant conifer, Agathis australis (New Zealand Kauri), a taonga (treasured, sacred) plant to all New Zealanders and especially for Māori on whose lands these gigantic trees grow. The resilience and health of remnant kauri forests and dependent ecosystems are under increasing threat from the disease phenomenon Kauri Dieback ( Phytophthora agathidicida). A seminal joint agency programme that included Māori from governance to community engagement was initiated in 2009. Eight years on this programme is still in existence, although it is yet to realise the potential of Māori knowledge and customs to manage successfully Kauri Dieback.
More successful collaboration has been achieved in the second case study where Māori are involved in extensive efforts to combat the recent incursion of Myrtle Rust (Austropuccinia psidii) which threatens a range of taonga species. Central to this case has been the establishment of a Māori Biosecurity Network that supports the involvement of Māori researchers, governance representatives and political lobbyists.