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  • New Zealand’s cultural and natural history gives us unique knowledge and materials for biotechnology.

    Rights: The University of Waikato Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato


    This pare was carved by Dennis Conway for the entrance to the New Zealand Arthropod Collection (Te Aitanga a Pepeke o Aotearoa) at the Tāmaki Landcare Research facility in Auckland. It depicts the creation of various creatures including pekepeke or insects.

    Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research acknowledge the assistance of their local hapū Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei in the creation of this pare.

    New Zealand’s traditional knowledge

    Māori culture and traditional knowledge, taonga, is passed from generation to generation. Several hundred years of experience make this a great source of knowledge about the properties and use of New Zealand’s natural resources.

    Rights: The University of Waikato Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato

    Harakeke at Dunedin Botanical Gardens

    A close up of a harakeke plant at the Dunedin Botanic Gardens. The collection was gifted to the Garden over 100 years ago and is a taonga for the Kāi Tahu iwi.

    Combining traditional knowledge with science has the potential to develop new biotechnologies. For instance, harakeke (flax) has a long history of use by Māori as a strong fibre for weaving and as rongoā (remedies) to treat wounds or stomach upsets. New Zealand company Industrial Research Limited (now known as Callaghan Innovation) worked with Māori to better understand their traditional uses of harakeke and to develop new uses.

    See the video conference The Harakeke Project for more information.

    New Zealand’s natural resources

    Rights: Image licensed through


    A kete is a bag or basket made of flax.

    New Zealand has been isolated from other countries for most of its geological life. This makes our indigenous flora and fauna unique. Scientists are investigating whether the properties of these unique organisms can be used to make new products such as cosmetic ingredients, bioplastics, medicines, biofuels and fabrics.

    Biotechnology and sustainability

    While science is finding new uses for New Zealand’s natural resources, we are also finding ways to look after them in a responsible and sustainable way. For example, using mānuka honey as a wound-care product has significantly increased the value of mānuka and caused a conscious effort to maintain areas of native mānuka bush.

    People have been using honey to treat illnesses for thousands of years, find out more about using honey to heal.

    Rights: cloud9works, 123RF Ltd

    Honeybee on mānuka

    Making a beeline for mānuka (Leptospermum scoparium).

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    The Hub's Mātauranga Māori topic has numerous resources. Use the filters to refine your search.

      Published 16 November 2007, Updated 11 March 2024 Referencing Hub articles
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