This is the fourth issue of the Ngā Tautohe a Rangiriri, an occasional newsletter concerning an iwi/hapū-inspired research project called Te Kawa Waiora. The purpose of this project is to explore the iwi, hapū, whānau and marae contribution to improving the Wairoa River, its tributaries, and its environs. This will be our final newsletter for 2021
Rangiriri is a taniwha in the Wairoa River, and he was one of the original protestors objecting to its deterioration. Hence, we have called this newsletter Ngā Tautohe a Rangiriri, the protests of Rangiriri. Our research, this newsletter, and the collected voices of the hau kāinga of the Wairoa River continue his fervent protest as we aim to return health and mauri to our river.

Just as the river starts as a small stream and flows to the ocean, so our project flows and expands with increasing energy and purpose.

The Food Basket of Ngāti Whātua
Our final hui wānanga for the year was held at Te Kōwhai Marae, near Ruawai, Kaipara on 27 November. As with our other hui, the three central questions of the Te Kawa Waiora project were put to a gathering of mana whenua, who graciously hosted us.

This year (as with 2020) there have been many disruptions due to Covid-19, which have impacted on our ability to run Te Kawa Waiora as we would have liked, but even so, people have shown up and represented every step of the way.

In our last newsletter, we talked about the Hikurangi Rēpō - referred to by hau kainga who lived around the wetland as “the food bowl of the hapū”. Again, the importance of the river (and its environs, including the Kaipara) as a source of kai came up early in our hui. One of the local kaumātua called the Wairoa and Kaipara “Te kete kai o Ngāti Whātua” referring to the iwi’s historical reliance on food gathering from these places.

Tangata whenua were also asked about changes in the river, and many of the same themes from previous hui came up again and again - the decline in the overall quality of the river and land mirrors an overall decline in the quality of life. Poverty, pollution, inequity. As for solutions, we think the last word on this for 2021 is best left to Mikaera Miru, who had this to say -

“We have got to stand on our own tikanga… we have this obsession with pleasing the Crown and I’m sick of it...we have to come back onto our marae...we need to come back together as Māori... we need to start learning our tikanga... our connection to Ranginui and that all our decisions come from the marae.... all our maraes come together... we go collectively together to the Council after having hui amongst ourselves...this is how our awa is going to be managed going into the future... we want that partnership of Crown and Māori at the table together...always the Crown running the whole process...

it's like a machine gobbling us up...”

Mikaera Miru sharing some korero with some of the participants at the Te Kowhai hui wānanga 27 November 2021.
Master Report
On Wednesday 15 December, Research Leader Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal presented to our Research Committee the first draft of the final report concerning the Te Kawa Waiora project. Over the coming months, this draft will be reviewed by the Committee and several external peer reviewers before it is sent to our research participants – particularly interviewees and the marae that hosted this project. The final report will be released publicly in 2022.

The report is the culmination of the tireless work of the research team, including Charles, Celia Witehira, Hineāmaru Davies Lyndon and Robyn Kāmira, together with Reconnecting Northland staff, and overseen by the Research Committee.

The report details why Te Kawa Waiora matters – it discussed its original vision, how it was run and some of the core challenges. It brings together all we heard in aid of answering the project’s three core questions.

It also gives details about the crucial research training component, which has been a major contributor to the sustainability of this mahi, which, even though Te Kawa Waiora as a project is almost compete, will need to go on for generations if we are to achieve lasting change in the Wairoa.

To all our whānau who contributed to the project over the past couple of years, thank you.

Wairoa River looking upstream from Te Kowhai
Presentations by Lead Researcher Charles Royal
During the initial development of the Te Kawa Waiora project, a number of presentations to wider audiences about Te Kawa Waiora were planned. These presentations were intended to respond to the need to ‘spread the word’ as it were about Te Kawa Waiora and share its thinking with wider communities of interest. Owing to Covid-19, many events were either postponed or cancelled altogether which meant that we have not been able to conduct as many of these presentation as would have liked. For example, a hui planned for October by Ngāti Kahu ki Whangaroa had to be postponed to 2022.

Despite this, however, Charles was able to deliver two presentations (via Zoom) which drew a great deal from his experiences with leading Te Kawa Waiora. The first took place on Wednesday 10 November and was entitled ‘Intercultural Capability, The Treaty of Waitangi, Mātauranga Māori and Science’. Some 200 people attended the webinar which was hosted by Koi Tū: The Centre for Informed Futures, University of Auckland, led by Professor Sir Peter Gluckman. Charles maintains a part-time role as a Strategic Advisor for the centre.

During this presentation, Charles was able to share views and perspectives held by tangata whenua communities regarding Te Tiriti-o-Waitangi. He was also able to reflect upon the ‘on the ground’ realities of research and knowledge building in a tangata whenua community context.

A second presentation was delivered to a meeting of the Panel conducting the Independent Review concerning the Future of Local Government. This presentation consisted of a conversation with Prof Dame Anne Salmond of the University of Auckland who invited Charles to share his thoughts about mātauranga Māori, tikanga Māori and their potential application in local Government.

Charles again discussed aspects of the Te Kawa Waiora project including the ‘double challenge’ of deepening and increasing mātauranga Māori capability within tangata whenua communities themselves upon which the application of mātauranga Māori beyond these communities can proceed. Ultimately, however, Charles’s key message left with the Panel – and one that he heard directly in Te Kawa Waiora hui – is the need for the Government (local, regional, national) to ‘make space’ for and enable tangata whenua localised, ‘ground up’ initiatives and solutions to issues facing the environment and community today and into the future.
Te Kowhai Marae hui wānanga participants, 27 November 2021.

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