• Academic publication

Navigating risk within iwi/hapū environmental decision-making - Potential pathways based on the published literature

Mayall-Nahi M, Williams E, May K, Kainamu A, Ratana K (November 2021)


Executive Summary

The Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge recognises that tangata whenua, as Te Tīriti o Waitangi partners have important reciprocal and intergenerational relationships with their local environments.  Understanding the risks from the perspectives and experiences of tangata whenua is crucial to building equitable processes and capability within marine decision-making processes.

The project titled ‘Decision-making under uncertainty – a review of new tools and approaches for assessing risk in complex environmental problems’ reviewed and evaluated methods to support decision-making under conditions of significant uncertainty around risk (Inglis et al. 2018). 

This review seeks to complement Inglis et al. (2018) and provide examples of frameworks, processes and methods developed with and/or by Māori, to support iwi/hapū/whānau and their assessments of the direct and indirect environmental risks of different activities.

Tangata whenua are intimately bound to oceans, estuaries, rivers, lakes, and streams through whakapapa.These environmental aspects are a fundamental tenant of personal and tribal identity for tangata whenua. Māori have interconnected relationships with the environment as a component of the natural order, rather than as controllers and exploiters of resources.

The environment and associated natural resources are taonga, and how tangata whenua engage is crucial to their well-being, integrity, culture, ability to uphold kawa and tikanga, and keep cultural practices alive.

On a daily basis, whānau, hapū and iwi are confronted with a plethora of proposals for resource use and development that all need to be assessed for the potential risks and impacts from a Te Ao Maori perspective.

To inform this review we drew on existing published and readily discoverable literature from the environmental regulation, biosecurity, environmental health, hazards, and climate change disciplines.

We chose these examples to reflect a range of methods, processes and protocols that may be familiar to various government agencies with responsibilities in these areas and therefore anticipate that many of the common learnings expressed through these studies will also be relevant to Ecosystem Based Management and the Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge. 

This review briefly touches on nine case studies that explore culturally appropriate approaches for framing risk and evaluating potential impacts to Māori interests:

  1. Mātauranga Framework and impacts of environmental activities: This case study demonstrates how the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is taking a proactive approach to ensuring that the principles of Te Tīriti o Waitangi and Māori interests, values and perspectives are incorporated into its processes, policies and decision-making.
  2. Take-Utu-Ea Framework and pest management: This case study demonstrates how tikanga and mātauranga Māori-driven frameworks can empower iwi/hapū perspectives in their assessments of risk to inform contemporary issues around emerging biotechnologies.
  3. Tapu-Noa Model and marine risk management: This case study demonstrates how a predetermined approach and outcome sought by an agency undermined iwi/hapū participation and the contribution of their mātauranga. The case study is included to show how the collective experiences of the Māori, marine and social science team were able to work together to provide an alternate approach that was more acceptable to iwi/hapū.
  4. USEPA Risk Assessment and contaminants in wild-caught kai: This case study demonstrates how an internationally accepted method can be complemented to accommodate mātauranga Māori and whānau harvest behaviours to provide risk assessments, fish consumption and remediation advice that is location specific and relevant to Māori.
  5. Mauri model and point source and diffuse discharges: This case study demonstrates how mauri, a universal concept in Te Ao Māori, can be used to derive new methods that support iwi/hapū/marae communities and their assessments of environmental impacts and risks.
  6. Ngāi Tahu Māori Recovery Network and disaster management: This case study demonstrates how iwi/hapū knowledge, networks, capacity, and resourcing is essential to inform risk reduction responses.
  7. Perspectives of tamariki and resilience to volcanic hazards: This case study brings together mātauranga Māori, geoscientific knowledge and performing arts to include the perspectives of tamariki to increase cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary understandings and promote conversations about risks within the wider community.
  8. He huringa āhuarangi, he huringa ao and the National Climate Change Risk
    Assessment: This case study demonstrates a Māori-driven approach to informing the National Climate Change Risk Assessment.
  9. Serious games and flood adaptation pathways for marae: This case study demonstrates how new emerging methods, like serious games, can be co-developed to better understand social and cultural issues for marae communities and inform their risk assessments and responses to climate change.

Based on the successes and challenges raised by the case studies above, this report summarises some of the key lessons that can be used to support iwi/hapū and their assessments of the direct and indirect risks and impacts of different environmental/marine-based activities.