Credit: Tauranga Moana (Adobe)

Posted on 31 August 2023

Te Au o Te Moana - Voice of the Ocean: Waiaria Rameka

  • 9 Minutes to read

This month we share the kōrero of Waiaria Rameka, co-project leader of Ngā Tohu o te Ao: Maramataka and marine managementThis project investigates maramataka (Māori lunar calendars) as a framework to develop cultural coastal indicators to inform marine monitoring practices.

Published August 2023

Interview by Desna Whaanga-Schollum

Waiaria Rameka and Kelly Ratana, Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge Conference – Te Au o Te Moana, 2023

Tell me a little bit about yourself, and your connection with Sustainable Seas — why you're involved in this kaupapa 

I am involved with Sustainable Seas through the Ngā Tohu o Te Ao and the Tāhuhu Matatau projects. I am a co-lead for the Ngā Tohu o Te Ao project, which looks at understanding how reclaiming traditional knowledge of maramataka can support management practice, and theory within whānau, hapū, and iwi spaces. 

For a long time, Manaaki Te Awanui has been working towards developing our understating and practice of maramataka. We were looking for something to better align our monitoring with the natural timing systems of taiao, and at the same time reclamation of maramataka was starting to grow across the motu. 

So, three years ago, we decided that it would be a great opportunity to help support our own development, in our research practice as Manaaki Awanui, and also create space to support other whānau who were wanting to do the same thing. 

The aspirations and goals of Sustainable Seas aligned with our own mission as Manaaki Awanui, and so we connected with whanau across the motu, Ngātaki, Tokomaru Bay, and of course Tauranga, and we formed our Ngā Tohu Kaupapa. 

How do you feel connected to the moana? 

I was brought up freshwater, so water is what I feel most connected to, and of course the moana, being part of that wai system. I have always had a very strong connection to wai and I was raised close to the river mouth of Waikato, Nukuhau, and Taupō Moana. So, water has always been part of my world. My connection to the moana specifically, has developed in my adult years. Though I always had an affinity to it, because my father was very connected to the moana and as children, we spent a lot of time at the moana with him. 

As I grew and had children, that's where the connection really developed. I have had the privilege and opportunity to raise my children next to the moana, and so through them, Tauranga Moana has been where that connection to moana has developed in me, and hopefully has developed in them. 

Can you share a memory, whether that's recent or childhood or a moment that you feel particularly connected to the moana?  

A memory I have is with my dad, it was just us two, we drove from Taupō to Maketu, to get some pipis and it was a freezing day. It was just him and I. We pulled up to the estuary and we jumped out.  

We jumped in the water, and it was cold, and the wind was blowing. I think we had just missed the tide, so it was coming in. But he was adamant that we were going to get a kai, so we jumped in. After a while, I was freezing. He sat me in the car, and he turned on the air conditioning so that I could warm up, and he went back in, and he filled up his sack. When he was done, he jumped in the car. He was frozen, near on hypothermic. We had the heat blasting and we just sat there, talked, and acknowledged that we had the time and the opportunity to come and get a kai.  

Then we took the pipi home to Nukuhau, inland. Pipi in Nukuhau in Taupō is a kai of chiefs. If we had any kaimoana, Dad would always take it around to all of the nannies and koros, and then we would have whatever's left over. He would cook it up for us and would sit at the table, me and my brothers and sister with a pot of pipi and, like unfed savages, we would suck on them until they were all gone.  

Pipi have always been in my world. I have lots of beautiful memories of raising my kids on pipi. Just out the front of where we live is a pipi bed. I remember when my kids were babies, less than one year old, we would make them little tubes and they would sit in these tubes, next to me on the water, as we are picking pipi. Good times!

Pipi, New Zealand (Adobe)

What motivates you to work for better moana management, or to you, what about the moana is worth protecting and saving? 

Mokopuna. Looking after our moana so that our babies and our mokopuna can connect and have the same experiences and interactions with the moana. It's about preserving culture and preserving the way that we connect as Māori with the moana. I also think it's about ensuring that our kids have a future. The pipi beds in Tauranga Moana are kai. Kai is life, that's survival, that's existence.  

I've been here in Tauranga for 16 years now, and outside the front of where we live, we've lost kukuroa, horse mussels, and scallops, all of them, gone. There's nothing there anymore.  My tamariki will not experience being able to go out and harvest scallops and kuku from Raropua, their papakainga, which is very sad. 

So, for me it's about culture and it's about survival.  

[When you buy kaimoana from supermarkets] your puku is satisfied but your mauri isn’t. And I think that's it. We don't go diving in the same spaces that we once did, because there's no kai, which is the doorway to connection.  

What is your favorite moana-related word or phrase? 

“Ko au ko te moana, ko te moana ko au.”  

One of our whanaunga from Otāwhiwhi, says this all the time, “Ko au ko te moana, ko te moana ko au”. And for him and for me too, it speaks to the mauri of the moana. It's not separate from us, or a separate system. When you are raised on the moana and in the moana, it is who you are. You are a manifestation of the mauri and of the moana. I wasn't raised on the moana, but I've seen this in my kids. My kids understand and feel the moana deeply in them. 

I think it speaks to aroha for the moana and a responsibility for the moana, rather than rights of access, and rights of management.  

How would you describe the current state of our moana in Aotearoa?  

I would say that water is a reflection of ourselves, so if we look at the health of the people, that can help us to understand the health of our moana or of our wai. Our people are not well, and our moana is not well.  

What's the biggest challenge you see in marine management? 

‘Marine management’ in itself suggests that we need to manage the marine environment, but marine management is more about management of tangata. When we are managing tangata, there are lots of different levels of management. A couple of challenges that we are dealing with in terms of managing people, is disconnectedness and greed. How do we manage that? How do we change that?  

Disconnectedness and greed, from what I see, are two underlying problems that we have with all taiao systems. So, finding a place of aroha for taiao as a whole, for water, for self, is key to overcoming some of the challenges that we have in marine management. 

What is one action that New Zealanders could take to support the moana which aligns with your mahi at Sustainable Seas?  

A call to action…One of the coolest things that has come out of the Ngā Tohu programme is a deeper connection with taiao. Not specifically with the moana, but the moana is not separate to the awa, and the awa is not separate to the whenua, and the whenua is not separate to the sky that feeds the awa. Ka hono ai te katoa.  

One of the things that has come out of the Ngā Tohu o Te Ao program is a deeper understanding of the natural processes within taiao and how everything is connected, and it's connected by water, and water is life. 

One of the things that has helped us to be able to do that is getting out and connecting and listening. Whakarongo ki te au o taiao. Going out and actually taking time to be with taiao. It seems so simple, but it is so effective in terms of connecting and growing that aroha for our wai and for the moana and understanding the systems. There are whole science systems that sit within deep observation that can help us to plan for a better future. 

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