Rights: University of Waikato. All Rights Reserved. Published 4 September 2012 Download

Dr Shaun Ogilvie is a Māori business development consultant. He shares with us – from his Māori perspective as kaitiaki – his thoughts on being a scientist and how both science and Māori knowledge are important for the process of kaitiakitanga (protecting and caring for our environment).


I’m a Māori business development consultant, so the work involves making connections between people, and in my case, the people are the science people within Cawthron and Māori organisations, so Māori communities, Māori groups that have an interest or a need for science and research.

I have a PhD in marine biology. I come from a Māori background and that’s kind of who I am, so I guess there’s those interpersonal skills that go with that, that are part of it – not really official qualifications but just being a people person, really, is an important part of it. And wanting to kind of work in that people arena, not necessarily being keen to being locked away in a corner somewhere looking down a microscope

I think it’s really important that scientists forge strong relationships with the local communities and with iwi in particular. There’s a few reasons for that but the main one is that it makes the science relevant to the people. So when you start a research or science project, you have a question, you have a hypothesis. Where that hypothesis comes from really comes from out of experiences or needs, and so if you have a close connection with the people and with what’s going on on the ground, you can design and shape science that comes up with answers that are useful to people, science can actually be utilised, so I think that’s really the most important thing.

In terms of for Māori communities, the benefits of strengthening relationships with science communities is worthwhile from the kaitiakitanga model. As kaitiaki, it’s inherent in who you are that you look after the environment around you. In the process of looking after the environment around you, you should feel free to have access to as many tools as possible to do that in a prudent and sensible way. And to me, the science offers a set of tools that everyone should feel that they’ve got access to, and for Māori, we should have as much opportunity as is appropriate to access the science tools to help in that process of being a kaitiaki or undergoing kaitiakitanga.

From the science fraternity’s point of view, there’s actually room for expansion around ways of thinking, so the whole area of mātauranga Māori and Māori knowledge and diversity of thought, it’s an area that the science community, I think, hasn’t made enough of, and it’s really got huge potential.

There’s actually a whole lot of knowledge in Māori communities that’s not celebrated. It’s not half the time even known that it’s there. It’s not until you actually make decent connections with those communities that you start to have the conversations that blow you away.

There’s some of the elders that I work with in Tūhoe out in the middle of the Ureweras, and man, the knowledge that’s there is astounding, but not many people know about it.

Hauraki Māori Trust Board