Te Tiaki Mahinga Kai (TMK): Application of traditional knowledge and social-ecological research to enhance environmental and cultural wellbeing through mataitai and taiapure

Funding Body Ministry of Science and Innovation (MSI)
Total Contract Value $888,658
Start Date January 2007
End Date
September 2012
Principal Investigator
Chris Hepburn
Current Subcontractors Khyla Russell (Otago Polytechnic); Rau Kirikiri (RK Associates)
Staff Involved
Henrik Moller, Chris Jacobson,Alaric McCarthy, Derek Richards


Interfacing knowledge systems, resilience, systems, cross-cultural research and management, participation, governance, identity

Brief Abstract

Te Tiaki Mahinga Kai (TMK) is a collaboration of researchers, environmental managers, and M?ori community leaders. It aims to improve co-management of m?taitai and tai?pure reserves for sustained enhancement of the cultural, economic, social, and environmental resilience of M?ori. The research is developing practical tools for kaitiaki to monitor trends in fish stocks and to assess the health of the marine and freshwater ecosystems. M?tauranga is mainly contributed by kaitiaki and key local fishers who are being interviewed, and through analysis using Nvivo? and semi-quantitative research methods to identify the main enablers and constraints to both ecological and cultural resilience.

Research will lead to recommendations about how better accommodations between customary, recreational, and commercial fishers, as well as marine biodiversity advocates, can be obtained. More generally, the research process and its questions explore ways to better interface ecological and fisheries science with m?tauranga (?Traditional Ecological Knowledge? to many overseas scholars). A meta-analysis of our case studies (species, places, tool development) also identifies general constructs from the matauranga that transcend specifics of place-based knowledge to challenge generalities of ecological and fisheries science approaches to marine ecosystem management.

TMK has so far held three ?forums? with kaitiaki from all around Aotearoa to share vision and exchange ideas for enhanced mahinga kai management. Initial hopes to create a national-level network, as well as a coalition of kaitiaki and researchers to support kaitiakitanga have proved impracticable with current project personnel and resourcing. The project now aims to help build a less extensive and informal network among kaitiaki and involved assisters. It created and is continuously enriching a website (www.mahingakai.org.nz) with tools to assist customary fishing and environmental management by kaitiaki. It also produces a magazine (Kai K?rero), which is sent to 1,650 recipients among Maori communities, research and management agencies, libraries, and research participants.

TMK wishes to thank Dunedin City Council's Business Development Fund, which enabled us to conduct much of our research, and to hold meetings with iwi/hap?groups, government stakeholders, and collaborating scientists.