New partnerships forged with Māori 

5 July 2021
New partnerships forged with Māori

Development of opportunities in food and fibre, and kaitiakitanga (guardianship) of the environment, are at the heart of a series of new partnerships AgResearch has recently formed with Māori organisations. 

The most recent of these was in March when AgResearch signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Wakatū, whose purpose is to preserve and enhance its legacy for the benefit of current and future generations – those whānau and hapū who comprise the customary Māori owners of Whakatū (Nelson), Motueka and Mōhua (Golden Bay). 

AgResearch’s Pou Ārahi Ahuwhenua (Sector Manager Māori Agribusiness), Ariana Estoras, says the agreement with Wakatū builds on the work the two organisations are already doing together on research into potential new fermented foods. 

In connection to this agreement, some of AgResearch’s team recently went sample collecting for kawakawa in Te Tauihu (top of the South Island). Kawakawa was utilised traditionally by Māori for many purposes including medicinal.  

As an example of the science being progressed, working alongside AuOra, which is a business owned by Wakatū, AgResearch scientists are investigating bacteria present in the plant to see how it might contribute unique Aotearoa flavours and textures. 

In January, Waikato-Tainui and AgResearch signed a renewed partnership agreement that will combine indigenous knowledge and science to enhance environmental and community wellbeing. 

AgResearch director Rukumoana Schaafhausen, speaking at the time of the signing as Waikato-Tainui executive chair, said the partnership was about using the tribe’s mātauranga (indigenous knowledge) and scientific research to deliver better outcomes for communities and the environment. 

“In the past, our people prospered from a thriving circular economy that integrated whenua, water, people and wairua. That knowledge and experience is applicable to the challenges we face today.” 

AgResearch chief executive Sue Bidrose says the partners to the agreement will work on areas of mutual interest, especially the quality of waterways and tackling environmental challenges on farms that employ and support many Iwi members. 

“Our scientists are doing a lot of research into protecting and preserving the land and waterways, whilst acknowledging the mātauranga and kaitiakitanga (guardianship) of Iwi,” Sue says. 

Waikato-Tainui has helped to develop AgResearch’s Hyperfarm tool that uses big data and digital simulation to visualise land use changes on farms and their consequences, which has significant potential to improve outcomes for the broader agriculture sector. 

In October last year, the Kotahitanga (Unity) Agreement was signed between AgResearch and Poutama, whose mission is to grow Māori enterprise: culturally, socially, and economically for the benefit of current and future generations. The agreement is aimed at maximising the skills, networks and capabilities of both organisations to help whenua (land) based businesses and communities flourish.  

Tai Harmer, of AgResearch’s Mātai Ahuwhenua team, says it is also a fitting collaboration when the stepped pattern of the Poutama represents the various levels of learning and intellectual achievement, and the whakataukī (proverb) Āta Mātai, Mātai Whetū that was gifted to AgResearch from kaumatua Tom Roa means to remain grounded and relevant to the needs of today, whilst shooting for the stars to address the needs of tomorrow. 

Ariana says she is looking forward to the continued relationship with Poutama and its new chief executive Koro Dickinson, given the potential for expanding and accelerating a collaborative approach to supporting Māori enterprise, through the fusing of tikanga and mātauranga Māori with science and research. 

*For more information about AgResearch’s partnerships with Māori organisations, you can contact Ariana Estoras