Position: Professor in Ethnobotany, Massey University.
Field: Agronomist working on crop production systems and improving yield quality – primarily with traditional foods such as taewa (Māori potatoes), kānga (corn), kōkihi (New Zealand spinach) and kamokamo (Māori pumpkin).
Nick has a dual function, managing a series of projects aligned to crop production systems and also coordinating the national Māori horticultural organisation – Tāhuri Whenua.
The cropping projects are primarily with taewa or Māori potatoes and kānga or Māori corn. An example is the monitoring of the impact of key pests and diseases on these crops through a bioprotection focus or looking to improve yield quality through improved management of the crop at key stages of growth. The other aspect of Nick’s job is as Kaiārahi Māori, which involves working with Māori communities, students and initiatives to ensure their success in a university environment.
An agronomist works with crops or pastures – how you manipulate those crops to get the best...
Nick’s career path is more unusual than most. He left school at 14 with no qualifications after just 2 years at high school. This was followed by a number of years working in a range of jobs in horticulture, agriculture and crop management, ultimately contracting labour gangs for producers around the North Island. With the advent of mechanical harvesters, their role was significantly reduced and he was sent to Massey University to upskill with a Diploma in Horticulture (sub-degree level). This was followed by an honours degree in Horticultural Technology and then he returned to work in the industry. Nick was invited to return to Massey to undertake a doctorate in soil science, which he completed in 2007. He now works full-time for the university as a researcher and lecturer as well as being the Kaiārahi Māori (Māori Advisor) to the College of Sciences there. He was also a member of Ngā Kaihautū Tikanga Taiao, the cultural team at ERMA NZ, and sat on a number of scholarship panels aligned to Māori and science, in March 2021 he resigned. He has written a number of books on Māori vegetables and in 2013, he was the recipient of a Fulbright Award and spent several months at Cornell University in the US.
Nick was involved in the Biological Heritage National Challenge and is currently Professor in Ethnobotany at Massey University
Much of Nick’s other interests are around whānau and marae activities. This includes helping with wānanga and other cultural experiences and a lot of travelling back to papa kāinga at Taranaki and Wakatu. As well, he is a strong supporter of rugby and league and still does some cycling and walking excursions. The other interest remains around food, doing hāngī and other events and generally contributing to Māori food events around the country.
This article is based on information current in 2009 and updated in 2022.