Three Massey projects awarded MBIE Vision Mātauranga Capability funding

Over the ten years of the fund, Massey has been supported to lead 27 projects, and partner into many others.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has awarded three Massey University research projects nearly $640,000 from the Te Pūnaha Hihiko: Vision Mātauranga Capability Fund.

Established in 2010, the fund invests around $4 million each investment round into projects across two schemes: the Connect Scheme, which builds new connections between Māori organisations and the science and innovation system; and the Placement Scheme, which enhances the development of an individual(s) through placement in a partner organisation.

Of the 16 grants funded across the motu, Massey is leading three research projects, and partnering on another. This means that over the ten years of the fund, Massey has been supported to lead 27 projects, and partner into many others, working with iwi, hapū and Māori organisations to develop and enhance synergies between Indigenous knowledge and academic research, and building collective experience and skills. Project topics have been as diverse as, development of bioactives, environmental impact monitoring, agribusiness development, food safety, rongoā (traditional healing), flood management, and adapting to climate change.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Jan Thomas says it’s a fantastic result for the university, and a reflection of Massey’s focus on Mātauranga Māori research, as we aspire to be a Tiriti-led institution.

“To continue Massey’s long success in securing funding to partner with Māori is testament to our talented and innovative researchers, and their commitment to demonstrating authentic leadership in contemporary Aotearoa New Zealand.

“I’m excited to see our people involved in enriching knowledge, inspiring new understandings, and creating a better future for whanau, hapū, iwi and the rest of Aotearoa New Zealand.”

Kei hea tō karaka – a horticultural and food enterprise for Rangitāne o Manawatū – $249,930

As iwi engage more actively in the kaitiakitanga of taonga species, Māori are increasingly seeking to blend mātauranga Māori with mainstream science. Focusing on the karaka (Corynocarpus laevigatus) of Rangitāne o Manawatū (RoM), this programme of research will explore the genetic and food processing factors in developing karaka as a potential commercial enterprise.

Karaka has been a long-standing item of Māori horticulture and for RoM it is a taonga of significance, having provided food and shelter for generations of hapū. Nowadays there is little traditional use of karaka and no industry, but the skills of soaking and roasting the berries for consumption to ensure the kernels were free of toxins were certainly in use only a generation ago.

Researchers will build on the mātauranga of karaka to contribute to the knowledge and understanding of the genetic and food processing factors that may influence an enterprise based on producing a karaka nut for consumption and/or incorporation into a food product.

This project is being led by Dr Sharon Henare, Ngāti Whātua, Ngāpuhi, from the School of Health Sciences, in partnership with Rangitāne o Manawatū, and The New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research Limited.

He paku ā uta he paku ā rō wai – $227,580

The harvest of healthy food from the landscape and waters of Aotearoa is critical to all New Zealanders; from an expression of manaakitanga, to sustaining local communities, to underpinning the value of our export food industries. He paku ā uta he paku ā rō wai connects Māori and the science sector to explore ways to maintain and enhance the safety of a taonga species, tuna. Using a partnership approach, the project will exchange mātauranga and science knowledge between researchers and iwi to understand Whakakī Lake water quality, how this relates to cyanotoxin concentrations in tuna and therefore to determine when tuna is safe to eat.

Rich interactions between researchers, community and iwi will allow for mutually beneficial two-way exchanges throughout the course of the project. The project will develop and augment the skills of our food safety researchers, assisting them to develop scientifically-sound food safety management frameworks that also enable Māori rangatiratanga.

Lake Whakakī is a large shallow wetland system located east of Wairoa. Established in 1969, the hapū-based Whakakī Lake Trust has a long history of being an active kaitiaki of the lake and its natural resources, particularly tuna (eel). In 1996, the Trust began an ambitious and extensive wetland restoration and enhancement programme that still continues today. In partnership with the hapū of the Whakakī Lake Trust: Ngāti Hinepua, Ngāti Hine and Ngai Teipu, the project is being co-led by Distinguished Professor Nigel French (School of Veterinary Science), Chief Scientist for the New Zealand Food Safety Science and Research Centre.

Māmā pūpū, māmā kina: restoring environmental and social wellbeing through the active restoration of marine taonga – $158,704

The health of te taiao (the natural environment) is crucial to the identity, sense of culture and ongoing ability of whānau, hapū and iwi to keep tikanga and mahinga kai (natural resources) practices alive. Coastal hapū have witnessed dramatic changes in our marine ecosystems as a result of land-use change and overfishing. In north-eastern Aotearoa in particular, overfishing of kina predators, has allowed kina populations to explode in number, grazing all available kelp and creating ecosystems known as kina barrens. Due to the scarcity of kelp, kina in barrens have few resources to invest in growth and reproduction making them skinny, bitter, and of low nutritional value despite their abundance.

The growing sense of urgency to respond to the overabundance of kina, and the barrens phenomenon has resulted in some members of society advocating for the culling of kina, leaving them to waste – this is an unacceptable way to treat taonga. Borrowing from restoration ecology and aquaculture, the research team will develop kaupapa Māori approaches to restore important marine taonga in the Te Whānau-a-Apanui rohe in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. The project will be led by Te Whānau-a-Apanui researchers and practitioners, drawing on existing mātauranga and placing Māori at the centre of knowledge creation regarding kelp cultivation, and kina ranching.

This project is being led by Associate Professor David Aguirre from the School of Natural Sciences, in partnership with Te Rūnanga o Te Whānau.