New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2023) 47(1): 3521

Connecting Science to Indigenous Knowledge: kaitiakitanga, conservation, and resource management

Forum Article
Tara McAllister 1,2*
Daniel Hikuroa 3,4,5
Cate Macinnis-Ng 3,6
  1. Centre for Science in Society, Te Herenga Waka/Victoria University of Wellington
  2. Te Aitanga a Māhaki
  3. Te Pūnaha Matatini, Waipapa Taumata Rau | University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019 Auckland 1142, New Zealand
  4. Te Wānanga o Waipapa, Waipapa Taumata Rau | University of Auckland
  5. Ngāti Maniapoto, Waikato-Tainui, Ngaati Whanaunga
  6. School of Biological Sciences, Waipapa Taumata Rau | University of Auckland
*  Corresponding author

Indigenous Knowledge (IK) provides effective solutions to environmental threats and pressures. Using approaches that fully include Indigenous concepts, ideas, worldviews, knowledge, process, and practice helps the recovery of threatened species and endangered ecosystems, but it is essential that such work engages with Indigenous Peoples and that engagement is respectful, reciprocal, and meaningful. We support using mātauranga (Māori knowledge, culture, values, and worldview) alongside science, because incorporating socio-cultural perspectives and initiatives allows sustainability to be addressed in a more holistic way. This collaborative group of Māori and Pākehā researchers brings a range of perspectives and expertise to the challenge of working at the interface of IK and science, and practices of conservation and resource management. In developing a deeper understanding of kaitiakitanga, which is often translated as “guardianship”, “stewardship”, or the “principle and practices of intergenerational sustainability”, when working in partnership with Māori, Western-trained scientists can meaningfully acknowledge Māori values, knowledge, process, and practice in their work. This enhanced consideration of kaitiakitanga requires bringing together intricately linked concepts such as whakapapa, rangatiratanga, mana, mauri, tapu, noa, and manaakitanga. In this paper, we aim to guide Western-trained scientists and other practitioners in understanding kaitiakitanga so that they can meaningfully engage through an enhanced understanding of Māori worldviews, knowledge, process, and practice. We also aim to highlight the synergies and differences between kaitiakitanga and conservation and resource management, whilst providing examples of how kaitiakitanga can be used to enhance conservation for holistic sustainability outcomes. We emphasise the benefits and importance of working with Māori communities for long-term partnerships based on mutual trust and respect.