Position: Accredited New Zealand Environmental Commissioner, Environmental Project Officer, Contracted Environmental Tutor, Field: Biological science. Organisation: Waahi Whaanui Trust, Huntly, New Zealand.

Lorraine Dixon is from Waikato iwi and gained a master’s degree in the philosophy of science through the University of Waikato. She is currently an accredited New Zealand Environmental Commissioner. Her area of interest is cultural indicators and assessment.

Much of Lorraine’s working life has been involved with indigenous transformational change using integrated environmental science, cultural knowledge and education as the springboard for building meaningful industry-community relationships. These multi-task skills have enabled Lorraine to facilitate training workshops tailored to staff and workplace management, based on understanding cultural principles relating to Māori and indigenous peoples and diversity engagement. She is also a contracted tutor for the Bachelor of Iwi Environmental Management degree with Te Whare Wānanga o Aotearoa and delivers papers on an introduction to science, sustainable development and indigenous natural resource management to campuses in Auckland, Hamilton, Rotorua and Gisborne.

Working in the community

At a community level, Lorraine is a trustee for a social service provider in Huntly and an appointed Industry-Community Relationship Committee member.

Lorraine’s current work is concerned with the development of the people. This includes making them more aware of their environment from a cultural, social, environmental and economic perspective. Lorraine is creating tools for the community, in particular, building the capacity of kaitiaki practitioners to prepare, develop and write their Kaitiaki Environmental Impacts Assessments (KEIAs) and scoping reports as part of Environmental Impact Assessments. Some of the KEIAs Lorraine has been involved with are a scoping report for coal seam gasification and underground coal gasification, mine rehabilitation using biosolids and 30-year resource consents for energy. Lorraine also organises local indigenous groups for restoration work and mitigation projects (for example, training for first aid, river planting, health and safety for specific site plans, basic skills for project management and furthering their educational opportunities with wānanga and universities). Lorraine also works to establish relationships with other iwi with similar issues and establish international indigenous relationships.

This type of work has identified gaps and opportunities within the community-industrial relationship sector to further build the capacity of the community in order to reach their 50-year vision and strategies, while maintaining relationships and establishing new ones.

Living knowledge

Lorraine says, “From the time we were babies, we were known as being a ‘tutu’. We are a curious race, and this curiosity led us to navigate through oceans using only the climate, waves and notches on our waka. We were taught when to plant using the moon calendar to guide us. It’s been in our genes that we are already natural scientists. This knowledge is unique within each community. it cannot be found in a textbook. It is living knowledge of our past [and] present to navigate towards our future. It is our role as kaitiaki to look after Papatūānuku and Ranginui as they are part of our whakapapa.”

Learn our knowledge, as well as the knowledge of the western world, and this will give you two balanced feet to walk strong and tall in both worlds.

When she’s not working, Lorraine enjoys sport, athletics and hiking. She also enjoys overseas travel, experiencing how other cultures live, how they cook food and what their common beliefs are.

This article is based on information current in 2014.

    Published 19 March 2014