GNS Science has been awarded funding for two new projects in the 2016 round of the Government’s Vision Mâtauranga Capability Fund, which invests in programmes that help iwi development for the benefit of New Zealand.
A third project which is led by Ngâi Tûhoe with support from GNS Science has also been successful in winning funding.
The projects will receive funding of $100,000 each for terms that range from one to two years.
The first project will focus on Aotea, a rare rock containing the blue mineral kyanite, found only in South Westland. Aotea is a
special treasure that south Westland iwi Kâti Mâhaki have cared for, gathered, traded and gifted for generations.
Aotea is very distinctive in appearance and is potentially of value to science as a tracer of river erosion as it is washed out
in river gravels during flood events.
It also has cultural and commercial value to the rûnanga. However, Kâti Mâhaki want to understand sustainability of the
resource before making any business plans.
Aotea is rarer than Pounamu, although it has a similar origin being formed deep in the Earth's crust. It is treasured for its
ornamental value and is carved and worn. It is a softer rock than Pounamu, so has not been used as a traditional tool as Pounamu has.
Project leader, Simon Cox of GNS Science, said the programme would bring together both traditional mâtauranga Mâori
and scientific knowledge to inform wise and sustainable management of Aotea.
“The project will do this through a series wânanga, field excursions, and fieldwork hui during the next two years,” Dr Cox said.
By understanding local geology and landscape forming processes, the rûnanga will build confidence, skills and capacity
and understand the opportunities of natural resources and the risks of natural hazards.
“It will also encourage rangatahi (young people) to develop interests in both scientific and traditional knowledge,” Dr Cox said.
In another successful project, GNS Science will work with Ngâti Porou, Ngâi Tâmanuhiri, and the Gisborne District Council
to raise iwi awareness of, and resilience to, natural hazards within their rohe on the North Island’s East Coast.
The project will take place in three phases. The first step will be a compilation of mâtauranga Mâori and scientific knowledge
about natural hazards on the East Coast.
The second phase will see a team from GNS Science, Ngâti Porou, and Ngâi Tâmanuhiri visit Indonesia to share indigenous
knowledge and experiences of natural hazards.
In the third phase, knowledge gained from the earlier compilation and the Indonesian visit will be shared at iwi level through a
series of hui, workshops, school teaching modules, and media engagement.
Project co-leader Mike Page, of GNS Science, said the purpose of the Indonesian visit was to heighten iwi awareness of
natural hazards and their impact in a cultural context.
“This will be achieved through learning about the experiences of highly vulnerable Indonesian communities, focusing on hazards
that present-day East Coast communities have yet to experience. This particularly refers to severe earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions.”
Dr Page said awareness of natural hazards was something Indonesians live with on a daily basis and this was incorporated into
their music, art, stories, and social fabric, and it would be useful for iwi to experience this first-hand.
“This project will build iwi capacity in natural hazards and enable more informed engagement with the local council on civil
defence and hazard planning matters.”
The third project, being led by Ngâi Tûhoe with input from GNS Science and Victoria University of Wellington, involves searching for
dinosaur and other prehistoric fossils within Te Urewera.
During the two-year project, the three organisations will pursue a greater depth of knowledge of Earth science in Te Urewera.
Now managed by Tûhoe, the former national park is known to contain the same fossil-bearing rock that has yielded dinosaur
fossils from nearby areas in the past.
Geologists and paleontologists from GNS Science believe there are more such fossils to be found within Te Urewera.
Tûhoe – Te Uru Taumatua say they look forward to the creative and exploratory opportunities that the project is likely to provide
for their young people and communities.