Te Kāhui Rau, the Taranaki-based pilot project that is part of the Revitalise Te Taiao research programme, signals a commitment to creating positive change for future generations through the revitalisation of te Taiao.
Te Kāhui Rau empowers and amplifies the voices of Taranaki hapū, nurturing their capacity to lead kaupapa Māori research. Through immersive wānanga experiences, they unlock the potential of their ancestral knowledge, infusing it into the fabric of collaboration with local government agencies. Together, they work tirelessly to implement Te Tiriti o Waitangi principles, paving the way for a future where partnerships thrive and flourish.
The Revitalise te Taiao leadership team identified early on in the program that there was a need to ensure that all those involved in the research kaupapa were being supported to learn and understand the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. The Taiao Manawa Ora framework provided the foundation, with Te Tiriti o Waitangi principles as a guide on how to implement the work.
However, more in-depth guidance was required. This is where Te Kahui Rau contributed significantly by hosting a special Te Tiriti o Waitangi wānanga in Taranaki.
The Te Tiriti o Waitangi three-day wānanga was held in November 2022 and attended by Ngā Kaiurungi Taiao (three place-based pilots), Ngā Kaihoe (parent research programme group), and leaders from within Our Land and Water, AgResearch, and invited guests.
The entire team was welcomed by mana whenua kaitiaki of Ngāti Tawhirikura, a hapū of Te Ātiawa iwi, to enter their Taiao to walk the whenua (land) at Te Rewarewa Pā site.
Taranaki was ground zero for the New Zealand Land Wars during the 1860s.
For some of the Revitalise te Taiao team, the experience was a cultural awakening, a history lesson right from the hearts and minds of tangata whenua who shared the intergenerational impact of land confiscations by the crown.
We heard about the many ways hapū members are facilitating maara kai (food gardens), eco-sourcing and planting taonga species of native trees, and creating opportunities for whānau to reconnect with their whenua and Taiao. It was inspiring to gain a deeper understanding of the hopes and aspirations of those striving to create a better future for their whānau, hapū, and iwi in both strategic and practical ways to heal the people and heal the whenua.
Te Kahui Rau also ran a series of Kaupapa Māori research wānanga in Ngāmotu. The line-up of distinguished presenters included Professor Leonie Pihama, Professor Graham Smith, Professor Linda Tuhiwai (Raumati), Ngaropi Raumati, and Dr Ken Taiapa.
In workshop one, Kaupapa Māori Theory, participants learned how to develop appropriately defined questions, objectives, and aims in ways that are grounded within a Kaupapa Māori approach. Workshops two and three focused on Kaupapa Māori Methodology.
The interactive workshop series encouraged participants to develop skills in creating appropriate methodological approaches and to determine research methods that are most conducive to the research area at hand.
In reflection of the past year, this is what Te Kahui Rau whānau had to share:
“As the year has gone on, we are really now starting to connect to rich opportunities and wisdom. Reflecting on our growth, there is the practical stuff, but the biggest growth has occurred as we have had the time and space for whakaaro, to explore new ideas and the wisdom of others,” said Glen Skipper, Te Kahui Rau project co-lead.
“We have experienced a number of challenges, which has meant we have had to adjust, rethink, refocus, and re-evaluate and those are the real key outcomes. We have aspirations, but it is the journeying, the failing, and the succeeding that is refining our position and place. We have half a dozen steps that we have to get done, in order to really set ourselves up for the next level of development.”
Bry Kopu, Te Kahui Rau project co-lead, said: “The biggest highlight for me personally has been to reconnect with everybody and witness the relative growth of our kaupapa and that of the other pilot projects. It’s been great as we are all at different stages of the revitalisation journey, experiencing different challenges and opportunities. Building genuine relationships and trust has been critical to us getting the most out of our time together.
“As a team, it has been important to have the time and space to reflect on our kaupapa and how we are doing in relation to the greater vision and project goals. Revitalise te Taiao has really been the catalyst for a number of the initiatives that we are currently developing, deepening our networks, and deepening our understanding of what we want to achieve long term. It has been an invaluable experience for us.”
Te Raumahora Hema, mātauranga Māori lead, said: “Revitalise te Taiao is multifaceted. It is revitalising everything, our knowledge systems, our language, our customs, the way in which we do things, and the way in which we live. It is a long-term journey. For our pilot, we live and breathe mātauranga and tikanga in our everyday lives. Mātauranga, taking back knowledge systems that have been lost to my whānau to my generation, to the last few generations. I’m privileged to be a part of this kaupapa. Being Māori in 2023, the emphasis and the importance of revitalising Taiao is revitalising everything.
“Te Kahui Rau, our humble beginning, our pilot is conceptual, however, we are getting into those conversations and having those bigger conversations as a region in terms of our Taiao and how we can connect with our other hapū around our maunga Taranaki.”