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Applying Mātauranga Māori to restore and protect coastal environments

Applying Mātauranga Māori to restore and protect coastal environments: The development of a marine cultural health index (MCHI) to monitor intertidal and subtidal environmental health

Principal investigators: Professor Henrik Moller, Katja Schweikert

Staff involved: John Pirker (Canterbury University), Henrik Moller, Katja Schweikert, Corey Bragg, Ruth Arkless (RA)

Brief abstract

This project aims to develop and test a 'Marine Cultural Health Index' based on the mātauranga of Ngai Tahu kaitiaki. It is to be used by them alongside the already established Stream Cultural Health Index used to within Ngai Tahu's 'State of the Takiwa environmental   monitoring framework. Our work on scoring the health of coastal areas, fisheries and estuaries, and parallel work being taken elsewhere to develop a similar tool for monitoring lake ecosystem health from a cultural perspective, will complete a Ki Uta ki tai ('mountains to the sea') landscape approach to monitoring environmental health.

The tool is being developed by interviewing kaitiaki and local fishing experts from seven mataitai and taiapure to identify culturally and ecologically significant indicators of marine ecosystem health. The goal is to design a standardised and repeatable rapid inventory system where kaitiaki can score environmental health at traditionally important mahinga kai (food gathering places) in no more than 15 minutes and without the need for specialised and expensive equipment. 

The scores will then be contributed to a database and regular monitoring by the locals for successive years will identify long-term trends and be used in an adaptive co-management context to test the efficacy of new bylaws and environmental interventions of the kaitiaki to protect their mahinga kai.

The project has developed alongside the FRST Te Tiaki Mahinga Kai research project as Ngai Tahu's main co-funding of the overall project.