Storying Kaitiakitanga

Ngā Tū Āhuatanga o te Kaitiakitana

Sharing kaitiakitanga values and practices in the Māori agricultural sector to enhance productivity and identify new niche markets

Yvonne Taura, landowner Mere Whaanga, Jo Smith, Jessica Hutchings, Pahauwera Kaumatua Richard Allen at Taipōrutu, Māhia NZ

Project Details Ngā taipitopito

Project Status:
Challenge funding:
Research duration:
December 2017 – July 2019

Collaborators Ngā haumi

Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research | Rōopū Tikanga Rangahau | Tiaho | Victoria University Of Wellington

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What are we doing?E aha ana mātou?

He kai aku ringa. (There is food at the end of my hands.)

Kaitiakitanga values of guardianship and responsibility make an important contribution to Aotearoa New Zealand’s agriculture and food sector. Applying these values more widely could help ensure future generations benefit culturally and ecologically from whenua (land) and awa (water) resources underpinning agriculture and food production.

This research project raised the profile of existing and emerging Māori food production practices that contribute to a kaupapa Māori food story. Case studies show how food production can be done differently and encourage innovation.

In a highly competitive global market, communicating and employing kaitiakitanga values and practices could enhance productivity and help identify new markets for Aotearoa New Zealand food, while meeting economic, environmental and cultural objectives.

Naku te rourou nau te rourou ka ora ai te iwi. (With your basket and my basket the people will live.)

How can the research be used? Ka pēhea e whai take ai te rangahau?

  • Interviews with Māori agribusiness and food producers – including marae-based initiatives, small-to-medium business entities and Māori-led corporations – were distilled into reader-friendly stories that show the diverse practices and distinctive tangata whenua (people of the land) and awa relationships that exist in the Māori agribusiness and horticulture sectors. See summary sheets, below.
  • This research identified 8 common values practiced by Māori food producers: kaitiakitangamanaakitanga, mauri, wairuamoemoeāwhanaungatangatūranga and rangatiratanga (click links for English translation).
  • Māori agrifood sector practices are informed by deep understanding of the interconnections and interdependencies between land, food, people and waterways. This research shows that these practices occur within diverse Māori economies at whānau, hapū, iwi and national levels, and result in a holistic, systems-based approach to farming and food that can create an ‘upward spiral’ of connected outcomes, such as oranga (well being), tatai hononga (building social capital), tiaki taiao (maintaining and enhancing natural capital), and ōhanga (growing prosperity, economic capital).
  • Understanding and incorporating holistic Māori approaches into a national approach to farming, food and hospitality could improve land, water and food systems across Aotearoa, New Zealand.
  • This research highlights Māori understandings of food as part of a cycle of reciprocity (tau utu utu) that must always benefit land, water and people.
  • Adopting the ethics of kaitiakitanga more widely could drive transformations in land and water. Education about the concept of kaitiakitanga should always highlight the mutual obligations of guardianship and the physical, emotional and spiritual connectedness to place.

Research team Te hunga i whai wāhi mai

Research Co-Lead
Jo Smith
Victoria University of Wellington
Research Co-Lead
Jessica Hutchings
Tīaho Ltd
Yvonne Taura
Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāti Hauā, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Uenuku
Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research
Shaun Awatere
Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research
Garth Harmsworth
Te Arawa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Tuhourangi, Ngāti Raukawa
Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research
Desna Whaanga-Schollum
Rongomaiwahine, Pahauwera, Ngāti Kahungunu
DWS Design

Tools & resources Ngā utauta me ngā rauemi


Te Mahi Oneone Hua Parakore: A Māori Soil Sovereignty and Wellbeing Handbook

In te ao Māori, soil is taonga. It is also whanaunga – it holds ancestral connections and is the root of tūrangawaewae and whakapapa. It…
View Guidance

Awanui Huka Pak: Producing Kai in the Footprints of Our Forebears

Read about the largest Māori kiwifruit entity operating in Aotearoa, Awanui Huka Pak. Featuring the kōrero of Te Awanui Huka Pak chairperson, Ratahi Cross, we…
View Summary

Cathy Taite-Jamieson and BioFarm: Dairy Farming with Nature in the Manawatū

Her organic BioFarm yoghurt is available in most supermarkets in Aotearoa but she only milks around 100 cows. Read more here about the Māori and…
View Summary

John Reid: The Mutually Binding Nature of Kaitiakitanga

Senior Research Fellow Dr John Reid has worked for many years in the area of Māori land development, historical trauma and sustainable iwi development. Taking…
View Summary

Getting Dirty with Papatūānuku: Manaia Cunningham and Koukourārata Gardens

Food has always been cultivated at the Koukourārata Gardens on Banks Peninsula. Today, people like Manaia Cunningham are reviving the cultivation of Māori potatoes and…
View Summary

Academic outputs He whakaputanga ngaio

Technical Report

Enhancing Māori agribusiness through kaitiakitanga tools

This report focuses on Māori agribusinesses and their dynamic and holistic approach to natural resources that seek to balance commercial and cultural imperatives. An overview…
View Technical Report

In the media Mai i te ao pāpaho

The Spinoff, 20 October 2020
“When you fly over the motu, and you look down, it’s bloody straight fences and dairy cows, chicken and beef. Where’s the diversity?” says Hutchings.
The Spinoff, 15 November 2019
“Matauranga Māori is a complete intact indigenous knowledge system. It’s not floating around to be picked out – ‘oh I’ll take manaaki, I’ll take a bit of Matariki because I understand that, oh I know what whanaungatanga means so I’ll take that’. It has to weave a relation to everything else.”
Radio New Zealand, 2 December 2019
Cathy Tait-Jamieson, who runs BioFarm with her husband Jamie, talks to Kathryn Ryan about their innovative approach to farming. Their story is one of vision, dedication and kaitiakitanga.

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