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Capacity for Transition

Mauri Whenua Ora

Unlocking the potential of Māori land by advancing new production systems and market opportunities, using a mātauranga-centred framework

Maori Maps Waitangi Catchment

What Did We Do?

Many Māori groups are facing unprecedented levels of economic development through Treaty of Waitangi settlements and new entrepreneurial ventures. Māori cultural attributes are increasingly valued by consumers in some export markets; some estimates suggest the potential for adding value is $8 billion over 10 years.

However Māori agribusiness is complex. Land managers must ensure the cultural and environmental health of their whenua (land), while unlocking its economic potential to support its tangata whenua (people) – including descendants who now live elsewhere and may not be attached to or involved in their lands.

Mauri Whenua Ora researchers collaborated with Taitokerau (Northland) land entities, hapū and individuals to co-develop a range of models responsive to diverse needs and interests. These models include the Te Hiku Platform, a multi-tribal economic platform, and Pā to Plate, a social innovation economy model which connects hua (produce and resources) from ancestral lands with descendant markets.

How Can The Research Be Used?

  • A land-use decision-support tool for iwi, Māori land entities, trusts, and other Māori land decision-makers is being developed on the existing Māori Maps platform, the website portal to the 768 tribal marae of New Zealand. Mauri Whenua Ora researchers added Māori land block data, and data from Whenua Viz (the Māori land visualisation tool developed by Manaaki Whenua) to Māori Maps. This gave each Māori land block a direct portal to its land-use potential, historic land cover and soil properties.
  • The next steps are to integrate an iwi descendant map and social and economic data layers with the Māori Maps platform. A preliminary resource including income, employment and education data for the 9 Taitokerau iwi populations is available at the Kete Aronui of Iwi of Taitokerau website.
  • Current research focuses on the Bay of Islands, through a collaborative process with the Amokura Iwi Consortium (representing chief executives of 7 Taitokerau iwi), Stats NZ and Manaaki Whenua. Extension to the Bay of Plenty is underway. This will provide valuable information for a future national application.
  • Pā to Plate: Ideas collated from numerous wānanga, interviews and korero are being transformed into a micro-economy model to distribute food to market among kinship networks. Producers, growers and enterprises in the Bay of Islands have been identified as first contributors to the Pā to Plate model, and have been working with researchers and community representatives to build the business model and cyclical value chain. This is beginning to fulfil a project aim to connect dispersed tangata whenua to their marae.
  • An iwi land use platform has been developed in collaboration with Te Hiku Iwi. The Te Hiku Platform is founded on iwi-defined principles of land use and development with a special focus on forestry. It will help centralise the role of iwi and collaborative partners in advancing forestry interests and will act as a model for wider application elsewhere.

In the Media

How Can Urban Māori Reconnect With Their Whenua?

Our Land and Water blog, April 2019

Here's how urban Māori can use the Māori Maps platform to find their proximal ancestral marae.

Pā to Plate Project Boosted By New Decision-Support Tool for the Bay of Islands

Our Land and Water blog, May 2018

Important steps in the Pā to Plate project so far - and announcing the launch of a tool to guide Māori land use innovation, in the Bay of Islands region via Māori Maps.

Land blocks information now accessible via Māori Maps pilot

Māori Maps media release, 30 April 2018

“Not only will this information enable a richer understanding of the Māori landscape, but it also provides another avenue for people to make connections back to their ancestral marae,” said Dr Paora Tapsell, Chair of Te Potiki National Trust

How Iwi Chief Execs Are Helping Our Researchers Design New Land-Use Tools

Our Land and Water blog, July 2017

Mauri Whenua Ora research has scaled up its co-design processes and decision-support tools by holding 4 hui with iwi chief executives.


Community Involvement

  • At the 2016 Oromahoe Trust AGM, a micro economy was discussed and the wider community was invited to participate. Responses were enthusiastic. A follow up report back was given to the Oromahoe Trust at its 2017 AGM.
  • A survey of 150 people in March 2017 (mainly at the Ngati Hine festival and an Oromahoe Trust special meeting) showed that close to 100% of survey respondents would like to purchase from an initiative like Pā to Plate. Many were willing to pay more for it or add a koha to the asking price.
  • Ongoing relationships with several First Nations people who are involved in entrepreneurial food enterprises within US communities were established at the Green Bay Food Sovereignty Summit (around 300 in attendance) in October 2017.
  • Mauri Whenua Ora has held 4 hui with iwi Chief Executives to help them access the Taitokerau regional decision-support tools and inform the design of further iwi and hapū decision support tools.

Team Snapshot

Research Outputs


Reinterpreting the value chain in an indigenous community enterprise context

Merata Kawharu
Journal of Enterprising Communities: People and Places in the Global Economy, July 2019

The purpose of this paper is to interpret values that may inform a new approach to considering value chains from New Zealand Maori kin community contexts. Research findings show that a kin community micro-economy value chain may be a cyclical system and highly consumer-driven. Research shows that there is strong community desire to connect lands and resources of homelands with descendant consumers wherever they live. Mechanisms enabling this chain include returning food scraps to small community suppliers for composting, or consumers participating in community working bees, harvesting days and the like. The model may have implications and applicability internationally among indigenous communities who are similarly interested in socio-economic growth and enterprise development.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Indigenous Peoples: Another Missed Opportunity?

Krushil Watene, Mandy Yap
Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, February 2019

Indicators have emerged as a powerful communication tool for complex phenomena in the shift towards quantitative measurement. Using a framework informed by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and indigenous knowledge this paper has two aims: 1) to explore if and how the SDGs have reframed policy relating to indigenous peoples in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand and 2) to explore how indigenous communities are developing their own indicators to inform their development needs and in the process mitigate the negative governance effects of national goal and target setting.

Geographically-explicit, dynamic partial equilibrium model of regional primary value chains – Mathematical formulation and application to forestry in Northland region of New Zealand

Monge, J.J. & Wakelin, S.J.
Computers and Electronics in Agriculture, March 2018

This paper lays out the mathematical foundation of the Primary Value Chains (PVC) model, which is a geographically explicit, dynamic partial equilibrium model of regional value chains. Specifically, the model identifies: the equilibrium price-quantity bundles, optimal harvest schedules, market destinations, individual processing plant locations, and transportation routes. Results of a regional case study in the forestry sector in the Northland region of New Zealand are presented to showcase the model’s capabilities. The model’s structure is flexible enough to easily include other regions, cropping or farming systems, transportation alternatives, processing technologies and destination markets.


Whāriki: The growth of Māori community entrepreneurship

Merata Kawharu and Paul Tapsell
Oratia Media, November 2019

Understanding what drives enterprise within an indigenous cultural space is not widely understood in New Zealand. Whāriki reveals how kin-based business ventures created by Māori have promoted social, economic and environmental wellbeing from the whenua (land) up. Its core is eight case studies — some arising from iwi-driven ideas, some ideas from marae-based whanau. These range from a bee school in Northland, ginseng growing in the King Country, to the rehabilitation of Māori prisoners in Dunedin and a web-engaged response to accessing tribal marae. Always reaching into ancestral ties and lessons to provide guidance and foundation for their ideas, these businesses are wrapped in cultural approaches that engage kin communities in improving the wellbeing of their iwi, hapū and whānau. This book explores the successes, the failures, the learnings and the futures of these opportunities for Māori.

DIGITAL TOOLS Waitangi Catchment Pilot

Tapsell P.J., Tane P., Harmsworth G., Sutherland A
Published dataset, April 2018

This provides a new web enabled access tool that connects cultural GIS data and soil and water science, with the Māori Maps marae community platform. This provides new ways for mana whenua to engage with their awa and whenua to achieve their aspirations. Māori Maps acts as a portal to WhenuaViz data provided by Maori Whenua Ora research. Work to extend the decision support tool to the Bay of Plenty is currently underway.

Kete Aronui of Iwi of Te Taitokerau

Stephen McTaggart
Published dataset, March 2018

This web-based resource informs the Iwi consortium of CEOs of personal income levels, sources of income, type of employment or business ownership, employment within industry types, occupation types, education/qualification achievement and levels of engagement in tikanga Māori specific unpaid work, within each of the nine Taitokerau iwi populations.


Whakapapakāinga: a template of cross-generational development for marae-communities

(Paratene) Hirini Tane
Doctor of Philosophy in Maori Studies, University of Otago, June 2018

Through case study research in Northland, New Zealand, this thesis investigates the future of papakāinga (kin-community settlements) and their marae (ancestral centres of tribal identity). It uses interviews with elders, a Māori land trust; a questionnaire with community descendants (local and non-local), archival research, and reflexive ethnography. The key finding of this research investigation is that papakāinga development should innovate within central needs – energy, housing and food – that restore economy around papakāinga and reactivate functional kinship links between community members.


Mauri Whenua Ora

Hirini Tane
Our Land and Water Symposium, 12 August 2019


Pā to Plate

Hirini Tane
Our Land and Water Symposium, 13 August 2019


A biophysical-cultural framework to describe the linkages between land use and water quality Impacts

MS Srinivasan, R Muirhead, S Singh, G Tipa, R Stenger, R Monaghan, L Basher, M Close, A Manderson, D Selbie, C Tanner, D Houlbrooke, M Kawharu
Land Use and Water Quality Agriculture and the Environment 2019

Mauri-Whenua-Ora: kin-connecting local land, water and food-scapes

Kawharu, M. Tapsell, P. Tane, P.H.
Te Tai Tokerau Climate Change Action Conference, June 2019

Māori Maps: layering of people and place

Tane, P.H.
FOSS4G SotM Oceania, November 2018

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