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Te Rongoā at the Centre for Sustainability

Adapting principles from Te Rongoā into ecologically and culturally sustainable farm practice

Principal investigator: Dr Marion Johnson (former staff)
Staff involved: Dr Janet Stephenson

Brief abstract

This project promotes a novel philosophy and approach to agricultural production by translating and applying traditional Māori knowledge of the medicinal properties of native plants to stock health.

New Zealand has a large natural pharmacopeia. Complementing the natural plant diversity, there is a wealth of traditional knowledge (Te Rongoā) within the Māori culture regarding the use of plants for human health and healing. Globally, there is an increasing awareness of the adverse impacts of current agricultural practices; this is evident in changing consumer demands for more responsibility, traceability, and natural methods of farming. New Zealanders (and Māori in particular) are well placed to respond to these demands through the development of lower input systems and niche product. However, maintaining a high standard of animal health is one of the major problems associated with farming without chemical interventions.

Using a Māori-owned farm in Banks Peninsula as a model, our project will adapt Te Rongoā for farm application, weaving medicinal plants into the management strategy of the farm. As the diversity of species on the farm is enriched, there will be flow on effects to the native flora and fauna, and the enhancement of the ecosystem.

Potential outcomes include the development of a novel philosophy for farm management, recording of medicinal plant knowledge for the local community, and mapping of Te Putahi farm for the Wairewa rūnanga who hold the farm in trust.