Water: Western worldview locking out Māori knowledge, expert says

By Te Ao - Māori News

What happens when you mix traditional Māori knowledge and modern science at a water wānanga in the North? You get a clearer picture of how the western worldview of water has locked out traditional knowledge, Māori expert Rereata Makiha says. Reporter Dean Nathan has this report.

Rereata Makiha, of Te Mahurehure, says current water testing methods do not align with traditional knowledge concerning the Māori lunar calendar.

"The water flows from the low tide to the half tide, to the incoming tide to the full tide. Those tides are all different. So the current practice of taking a random sample and accepting that as the knowledge for that body of water is questionable," he says.  

"Because there is a whole body of traditional information on water to refer to from the genealogies of our ancestors, and their stories of the respective waterways and what they did in these areas to be tested."

Bobby Newson, of Te Tao Maui, was at the wānanga and says one of the school groups there was involved in developing a testing system.

"This group is from Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Manurewa, who after some years of research, have developed this water testing kit, with the locals bringing in their own water samples to test."

Te Kete Waiora is a water testing kit developed by Andy Wang through his work with Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Manurewa, with sponsorship from the research group 'Unlocking Curious Minds'.

Chantez Connor-Kingi, of Ngāti Hine, Te Waiariki, Ngāti Korora and Ngāti Takapari, says the kit offered an insight into the local water quality.

"So our water that we drink was good, it could be better but it was good. And the water that the tuna are in was actually better than the water we drink."

She says her children enjoyed the experience, "I bought in my tamariki today, so they're pretty keen to go home and start doing some other testing in our rohe. So it's a good educational tool that we can use as kaitiaki at home."

Traditional knowledge is said to come from the time of the arrival of Nukutawhiti and Ruanui to this land. 

"It's our own traditional knowledge we are all talking about here. We have the impetus to use it for a sustainable future, so we're searching within ourselves," Newson says.