Mātauranga Māori holds the key to solving many of Aotearoa New Zealand’s environmental challenges – now is the time to embrace it as a country.
Matariki gives us an opportunity to reflect on our relationship with te taiao, connect with nature and appreciate the bountiful gifts it provides.
When humankind loses its connection, understanding and respect of te taiao, we give rise to many of the environmental challenges being faced today.
Our tūpuna harnessed the knowledge of our whenua to grow and prosper, and today, Te Arawa Lakes Trust draws on that ancient mātauranga to restore our waterways, and the taonga species that reside in them.
The use of mātauranga Māori in our biosecurity mahi has seen populations of catfish in Te Arawa lakes decline, innovative Uwhi smother pest weeds in five waterways, and the revitalisation of native taonga such as koura.
These are not just successes for Māori; they are successes for all New Zealanders who, as a result of the use of mātauranga Māori, can continue to enjoy and draw sustenance from our wai.
Recognition of Te Arawa Lakes Trust’s biosecurity efforts in the 2023 Matariki Awards this week reinforces not only the legitimacy of mātauranga Māori, but how we could and should celebrate it on the national stage.
Mātauranga Māori has a proven track record and this knowledge system, when combined with western science, has the potential to be applied not just across Aotearoa, but the world.
It is one of the attributes that set us apart from the rest of the science world and, in the fight against environmental issues, could be our saving grace.
Arguments against mātauranga Māori seem to stem from a fear that we want to see it replace western science. That’s not the case. What we do want to see is the use of every tool in our kete to restore and protect te taiao.
Māori have long understood the strengths in our knowledge and passing this down through generations needs to be a priority to keep it alive.
In order to do this, we, as a country, must come together and embrace mātauranga Māori, harness it in our daily lives and treat it with the same level of respect as western science.
Hope for keeping mātauranga relevant lies with our rangatahi, many of whom are already championing our traditional knowledge systems and bringing them into the mainstream.
In its second year, Te Arawa Lakes Trust’s Te Tūkohu Ngāwhā Science and Design Fair – Aotearoa New Zealand’s only dedicated mātauranga Māori science fair – has more categories and triple the number of schools taking part.
Open to all students, the fair serves to showcase mātauranga Māori in a positive light, and already we are seeing rangatahi coming up with innovative solutions to some of our most pressing environmental issues.
If all this can stem from mātauranga Māori being championed and celebrated in Rotorua, imagine the benefits we could see if we backed mātauranga Māori as a country.