Mātauranga Māori

  • The percentage of moss or lichen on a kauri trunk is a traditional indicator of tree health.

    The percentage of moss or lichen on a kauri trunk is a traditional indicator of tree health. Image - Richard Gordon

Māori indicators of plant health

Citizens combating kauri dieback team have sought expertise across West Auckland on cultural health indicators, rongoā (traditional remedies), and the impact that using non-traditional solutions or technologies may have on Māori values. Cultural health indicators and mātauranga approaches are a critical part of the project.

To date, one traditional indicator of tree health (the percentage of moss or lichen on a kauri trunk) has been included in the standard monitoring that all participants regularly carry out on their trees. Two more potential traditional indicators are currently being considered that may show the presence or absence of kauri dieback, and the team will introduce at least one of these in 2018.

Mātauranga Māori expands options for combating kauri dieback

Dr Monica Gerth was faced with a major challenge in designing the Stopping kauri dieback in its tracks project: the list of possible chemical compounds that attract or repel the swimming zoospores (the reproductive stage of the pathogen) is endless.

To narrow down the possibilities and increase the chances of success, Monica worked with Matua Kevin Prime (Challenge Ambassador and member of our Kāhui Māori). They talked with mana whenua to explore the whakapapa of kauri and consider sibling relationships that may inform plant familial ‘immunity’, in addition to rongoā (traditional medicinal plants). In this way, Mātauranga Māori informed the choice of the plant extracts being studied.

A project goal is to engage with kaumātua and other experts with mātauranga knowledge of kauri forests. The project addresses the aspirations of Māori as kaitiaki or guardians of the forest, because kauri are taonga to northern Māori and a ‘keystone’ species, critical for the health and biodiversity of the ecosystem.

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