Kauri dieback fight: Scientist warns of 'Māori exclusion'

12:56 pm on 7 September 2018

An indigenous social scientist has given an alarming message in Parliament about how Māori have been excluded from the management and prevention of kauri dieback.

Close up of a Kauri tree trunk in the Waipoua Forest

An indigenous social scientist says Māori have largely excluded from efforts to stop kauri dieback. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The soil-born pathogen has been rampant across ngahere around the country, moving through water columns in the soil predominantly from human activity, and killing kauri trees at an unprecedented rate.

The seven stages of the kauri dieback life cycle means the science on how to manage and kill it can be complex, because every stage has to be targeted separately.

Melanie Shadbolt from Māori biosecurity network, Te Tira Whakamātaki, told the Māori Affairs Select Committee western science, western world-views, and western-led structures to prevent the deadly mold would not be effective without the help or input of tangata whenua.

But so far Māori had been largely excluded from any meaningful effort to stop kauri dieback, she said.

"The frustration for Māori academics and our kaitiaki on the ground is that Māori solutions haven't utilised, used, funded or resourced," Ms Shadbolt said.

"And Māori solutions are things like our rāhui, they're also our cultural health indicators, which are probably the only thing that's been funded so far, and also the use of rongoā."

Kaumātua were already out in the field successfully treating kauri dieback, she said.

"We know they're having success but they're not sharing that because they don't trust the agency to not steal their mātauranga, and because they're not funded to do it so they're having to do it off their own back or with support from other academics quietly behind the scenes."

Ms Shadbolt said Te Tira Whakamātaki, which was established in 2016, has carved a space for Māori in the biosecurity system.

"We've been inundated with a huge amount of work because there is a need for a Māori voice in the biosecurity space."

Tane Mahuta, one of the largest Kauri trees in Waipoua Forest.

Tane Mahuta, one of the largest Kauri trees in Waipoua Forest. Photo: 123rf.com

The Biosecurity Act gives its lead agency, the Ministry of Primary Industries, the power to remove things deemed a pest or hazard in public and private spaces in New Zealand.

But she said Māori were largely excluded from that system.

"We would argue that Māori should be all throughout the system. They should be pre-border, post-border, they should be in the surveillance and the readiness and response section of the system and they should be in the long-term management at the very end."

But Māori were completely excluded until the end of the eradicating process, Ms Shadbolt said.

"In that section is also DOC, councils and the public so all the cost of eradicating a pest is at the end of the system and that's the only spot where Māori have a say. And it's where we bear the burden of the cost of eradicating," she said.

"Our frustration is that Māori not only are excluded from the system, but we're excluded from solutions as well and we're not funded equitably or even included in the conversations about how we make decisions about what is funded."

A report on the Kauri dieback briefing is expected to be released within the next month.

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