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Research Professor

Merata Kawharu (160)Tel +64 3 479 8294

Research background

Professor Merata Kawharu (Ngāti Whatua, Ngāpuhi) comes from a family where education is highly valued, but grounded in reality, leading her to always keep in mind her father's advice to think about the practical use of what you do, or in other words, ask 'so what?'

As a Rhodes scholar, she completed her DPhil in Social Anthropology on kaitiakitanga in 1998 at University of Oxford. In 2012, she was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) for her services to Māori education. Merata's research activities have over-arching themes of supporting Māori leadership, community and education.


Current research

  • Innovations for Climate Adaptation (2022–2024). Co-Principal Investigator with Professor Janet Stephenson. This project tracks innovations in governance and management that are being undertaken by mana whenua and local authorities as they adjust to making decisions for a climate-impacted future. Funded by Deep South National Science Challenge.
  • Capability Building Portfolio – Science for Technological Innovation, National Science Challenge.
  • Kainga and climate change – Ministry for Business, Employment and Innovation.
  • A Question of Identity: how connected are young Māori to ancestral marae, and does it matter? – Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Fund 2018.

Recent research

Mauri whenua ora – Land and Water, National Science Challenge.


Professor Kawharu is currently unable to take on additional PhD or masters' students as she is at full capacity for supervision.

Current postgraduate students

  • Maria Barnes – Developing Sustainable Hokianga Kai Systems. High Value Nutrition Scholarship
  • Deborah (Tepora) Davies – Kāinga, Kura and Kai: A cultural response in the face of a changing climate. Our Land and Water Scholarship
  • Laura Kumau – A question of identity: how connected are Māori youth to ancestral marae, and does it matter? A Question of Identity Marsden project Scholarship
  • Rochelle Mackintosh – Making it Work: Unlocking Whenua Potential Ahu Whenua Trust: Te Rimu Trust, Te Araroa
  • Cheri van Schravendijk-Goodman – Unlocking the past wetland-scapes of the lower Waikato River system and the potential implications for future wetland restoration and Te Puuaha. Project Kainga and climate change scholarship (Zoology)
  • Sofia Peters – He oranga māmā, he oranga whānau: The experience of pregnancy, childbirth, and the postnatal period for Māori women living in Ōtepotī/Dunedin, New Zealand (Te Tumu)

Recent postgraduate students

  • Claire Browning (2022) – The Woven Treaty – kaitiakitanga as a theory of the guardian relationships and principals of te Tiriti o Waitangi/the Treaty of Waitangi
  • Jamie Metzger (2021) – Mauri and Museums: Who really cares? The tensions between kaitiakitanga and museology.
  • Raaniera Te Whata (2022) – Now, then, next a whakapapa analysis
  • Paratene Hirini Tane (2019) – Whakapapakainga: a template for the cross-generational development of marae-communities.

Significant research and awards

  • 2016 – Nga Pae grant - Identifying Frameworks for Effective Iwi and Hapu Development
  • 2014 – Publication of edited book Maranga Mai! – Te Reo and Marae in crisis?
  • 2012 – MNZM (Services to Māori Education)
  • 2011 – Appointed by U.N. to expert committee on indigenous affairs and forestry.
  • Paper and meeting New York, January 2011. Paper presented 'Forestry and indigenous issues: New Zealand and the Pacific'. See
  • 2010 – Marsden grant awarded for three years on: Transformations of tribal entrepreneurial leadership.
  • 2009 – Inaugral Māori Book Awards, Nga Kupu Ora: Winner, Te Reo Maori Award for Tahuhu Korero: The Sayings of Taitokerau.
  • 2008 – FoRST grant awarded for research on regional Māori language, tribal marae and Youth. 2 years.
  • 2003 – New Zealand book awards: Montana Book Awards Finalist for Whenua: Managing Our Resources.
  • 2002 – Marsden Fund grant for research concerning Indigenous Knowledge and Museum Practice. Grant awarded to Professor Karen Nero, Professor Roger Neich, Dr Paul Tapsell and Dr Merata Kawharu.
  • 1994 – Rhodes Scholarship.
  • 1991–1993 – Annual and Senior Prizes in Māori Studies, Polynesian Society Award for best Stage II paper in Maori Studies, Ngarimu VC Scholarship (1991–1993).


  • 2007–2011 – (National) Rhodes Scholarship Selection Committee.
  • 2001–Present – Member, New Zealand Māori Heritage Council, Historic Places Trust, October.
  • 2001–Present – Member, New Zealand Historic Places Trust Board, October (including being a member of the Strategy and Finance Sub-committee of the Board, and member of the Registration Sub-committee).
  • 2004–Present – Ngati Whatua o Orakei Treaty claims team member.
  • 2008–Present – Alternative Journal of Indigenous Studies, Editorial Board member.
  • 2008 - Ngati Rahiri/ Ngati Kawa treaty claim team member and claim manager
  • 2004-2009 - Chairperson, Te Kawautikitiki Charitable Trust.
  • 2007-2009 - Trustee, Michael King Writers Trust.
  • 2001-2008 - Member, Te Kaunihera o Te Whare Wananga o Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa.
  • 2001-2005 - Member, Rhodes Scholarship Selection Committee, University of Auckland.


Bunt, C., Griffin, F., Kawharu, M., Bond, S., & Telfer, I. (2023, June). Adaptation. Panel discussion at the Science-based Policy School for Climate Change, [Hybrid]. Conference Contribution - Verbal presentation and other Conference outputs

Kawharu, M., Tapsell, P., & Tane, P. (2023). Applying whakapapa research methodology in Māori kin communities in Aotearoa New Zealand. Kōtuitui. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/1177083X.2023.2227232 Journal - Research Article

Fforde, C., Hemming, S., Kawharu, M., Kent, L., Mayer, L., Rigney, D., & Tapsell, P. (2023). Heritage, reconciliation and peacebuilding in Australia and New Zealand. In N. Shepherd (Ed.), Rethinking heritage in precarious times: Coloniality, climate change, and Covid-19. Abingdon, UK: Routledge. doi: 10.4324/9781003188438 Chapter in Book - Research

Kawharu, M., Tapsell, P., & Tane, H. (2022). Pā to plate: Innovation at source: Preliminary insights. Commissioned by Our Land & Water National Science Challenge. 26p. Commissioned Report for External Body

Kawharu, M., Tane, H., & Tapsell, P. (2022). Pā to plate: Indicators of success. Commissioned by Our Land & Water National Science Challenge. 42p. Retrieved from Commissioned Report for External Body

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