• Summary

Reclaiming indigenous knowledge for marine management

This impact case study describes incorporating mātauranga Māori into marine management strategies to improve coastal indicators (August 2022)

Maramataka is an ancient indigenous timekeeping system that looks to the phases of the moon to understand environmental patterns. Sometimes known as the ‘Māori lunar calendar’, maramataka involves a deep connection with the environment and follows the lunar phases through the months and seasons to guide ecosystem practices. Maramataka is a form of ancestral knowledge (mātauranga tuku iho) held by whānau, hapū and iwi in Aotearoa and passed down through the generations.

Due to climate change, many marine and coastal environments in Aotearoa have gone through a rapid transformation in recent years. To better understand these changes and their impact on a social, cultural and economic scale, a project is underway that explores how we can approach marine and coastal management through a maramataka lens to develop cultural and coastal indicators.

Ngā Tohu o te Ao: Maramataka and marine management addresses the need to reposition mātauranga Māori as an integral and vital knowledge system for understanding coastal ecosystems. The project is an example of an EBM (ecosystem-based management) approach, which looks at sharing and connecting the knowledge and experiences of tangata whenua, local communities, businesses, government, and other stakeholders.

Who’s involved?

Ngā Tohu is a partnership involving three case study whānau: Pākirikiri Wānanga – Tokomaru Bay (Tairāwhiti / Gisborne), Ngātaki Collective – Ngāti Kuri (Northland), and Manaaki Te Awanui – Tauranga Moana.

The three whānau have been working both individually and as a collective to research and implement mātauranga into their marine management strategies. For example, the Ngātaki Collective has been working with Ngāti Kuri to support the implementation of maramataka into key components of their iwi environmental monitoring programmes; two hapū in Tauranga Moana are utilising maramataka to guide their marine biosecurity programmes; and in Tokomaru Bay, Pākirikiri Wānanga are developing digital resources to illustrate the integration of maramataka and pāua surveys as a resource for supporting understanding of pāua conservation within the wider community.

How has the research been facilitated?

Led by kaupapa Māori research approaches, a significant amount of time was spent preparing and planning for safe, culturally appropriate research spaces that were flexible enough to account for the specific and changing needs and priorities of each whānau.

Careful and planned facilitation of hui, wānanga, and workshops within the research spaces was critical for upholding a kaupapa Māori knowledge reclamation process. Customised tools, such as maramataka dials, were designed to support the facilitated spaces and helped to guide each stage of development.

The timings of the project have also allowed for the development of meaningful relationships with each of the case study whānau as well as the ability to carefully and respectfully navigate the complexities of whānau, hapū, and iwi priorities, and for a mindful and gradual exploration of mātauranga Māori.

The Ngā Tohu project is due to conclude in mid-2023 when a report will be released summarising key learnings, processes and frameworks for implementing ongoing EBM practices.


Waiaria Rameka [email protected]

Research team organisations

Manaaki Te Awanui, Wheiao Whakaaro, Pākirikiri Wānanga, Ngātaki Collective