A Bicultural Research Approach

Our case study is an opportunity for wildlife managers and researchers to learn the value of Matauranga (Maori Traditional Environmental Knowledge) and of Kaitiakitanga (Environmental stewardship). It also allows Maori to learn how ecological science can help other Customary Uses of natural resources in Aotearoa (New Zealand). The research is conducted by the University of Otago, but overall research direction is directed by the Rakiura Maori community. A formal "Cultural Safety" contract guides this partnership between Rakiura Maori and the University of Otago.

The Cultural Safety Contract

At the outset it was identified that both Rakiura Maori and the scientists had concerns about ownership and disclosure of information coming out of the study. A formal "Cultural Safety" contract was drawn up to clarify these issues and allow both sides to be assured of their ethical rights. In this contract Rakiura Maori retain the complete ownership of intellectual property rights over Matauranga (Traditional Environmental Knowledge). The scientific data gathered on titi ecology and harvests are jointly owned by the University and Rakiura Maori. This guarantees that titi population data would be published and thereby safeguards the scientific integrity of the University researchers. The Rakiura Island Titi Committee was also given time to respond, add to or challenge all material destined for publication.

The formal cultural safety contract guiding the research partnership stipulates:

  • research aims and methods are directed by the Rakiura Titi Islands Committee who are the kaitiaki of the titi harvest
  • primary responsibility to raise funds for the research will be the responsibility of the University but Rakiura Maori will help grant applications in any way possible
  • Rakiura Maori will handle all publicity about the research project
  • Rakiura Maori hear the results of the research first and assist in their interpretation
  • the Rakiura Island Titi Committee are given time to respond, add to, or challenge all material destined for publication, but can not unreasonably with-hold permission to publish after consultation
  • kaitiaki are to be advised and invited to any presentations of the research so they can speak to the issues themselves, or assess the way it is represented and received by scientific peers
  • research results must be published in full no matter what they predict about the sustainability or otherwise of the harvest
  • The University and Rakiura Maori agree to work with each other for at least 10 years for the research
  • at the end of the 10 years research when the first predictions about the sustainability of the harvest are available, publication will be delayed by one year to allow Rakiura Maori to consider any potential management responses
  • complete data files will be made available to independent researchers nominated by Rakiura Maori if they wish to seek a second opinion on the main sustainability question

The need for this research
Study areas
A bicultural research approach
Matauranga and science
About titi
Scientific design