An important aspect of the government’s Long-Term Environmental Recovery Plan after the Rena disaster was to assess the impacts of the pollution and clean-up from a cultural perspective.
A keystone for local Māori was that the mauri of the site be restored. Ngāti Pikiao’s Dr Kepa Morgan had developed a scientific method for measuring mauri. Here, we explore what mauri is and the application of Dr Morgan’s mauri model in assessing the worst environmental maritime disaster in New Zealand history.
Dr Ocean Mercier
Māori have always been scientists, and we continue to be scientists. Our science has allowed us to live, work and thrive in the world for hundreds of years. My name is Dr Ocean Mercier, and I’m a lecturer in putaiao Māori at the Victoria University of Wellington. My job takes me all over the world to talk about Māori science and how traditional knowledge is being married with western science here in Aotearoa in order to find innovative solutions to universal global issues.
In this programme, we’re going to show you how these worlds of science are intersecting and how the paths to our future are being formed.
The grounding of the containership Rena on Ōtāiti in October 2011 was Aotearoa’s worst maritime disaster in terms of environmental impact.
Neke atu i te kotahi mano, e toru rau ngā pūoto i runga i te kaipuke (The ship was carrying over 1,300 containers), eight of which contained hazardous materials, as well as 1,700 tonnes of heavy fuel oil and 200 tonnes of marine diesel.
Tino kino te rarunga o te taiao, ā, nō te tau rua mano tekau ma rua, ka whakarewahia e te Manatu Taiao tā rātou rautaki whakaora. (The environmental effect was catastrophic, and in 2012, the Ministry for the Environment launched its Environmental Recovery Plan.)
The stated goal was to restore the mauri of the area to its pre-Rena state.
This presented an opportunity for Dr Kepa Morgan, who believed mauri, not money, made the world go round and had developed a mauri-based model for environmental remediation.
Dr Kepa Morgan
So I talked to my peers, and together, we discussed the idea that mauri could be incorporated into engineering decision making. We realised that mauri could not be incorporated, because you cannot measure mauri in economic terms. What if we didn’t measure in economic terms, what if we actually measured in mauri terms?
This allowed economic considerations to be included but also allowed us to be more consistent with indigenous thinking. We developed a decision framework based around mauri and we called it the ‘mauri model’. That allowed us to do two things. One was to measure the impact upon mauri in different situations. The next thing was that, once we developed the framework, we had opportunities to test this framework. One was when the Christchurch earthquakes occurred – we assessed wastewater solutions and their suitability for that context.
We were also doing work with Ngāti Whātua at Ōkahu Bay looking at how we could restore that marine ecosystem following the different impacts of urban development.
So when the Rena ran aground on Ōtāiti, we were well positioned, the mauri model was ready. The government positioned their response in terms of restoring the mauri to its pre-Rena state, and there was our opportunity.
The Rena disaster is controlled by government, in this case Ministry for the Environment, and it was Maritime New Zealand too. And so our involvement is to make sure, through getting recognition of mauri, that Māori values are carried out in any assessment of the recovery of the environment.
So it’s really, really important. And again, I think it’s because if we don’t assert ourselves and our legitimate models – because it is a legitimate way of looking at our environment – well, we’re not doing justice to our kaitiakitanga to our tūpuna and following their models that they have set.
Dr Ocean Mercier
He āpiha tiaki taiao a Pia Bennett o Ngāti Makino, ā, koia tētahi kua whakapau kaha ki te whakaora anō i te taiao. (Pia Bennett’s a Ngāti Makino Environmental Officer who’s been part of the clean-up crew.)
Nā āna tohu mātauranga i ngā take taiao me te mātauranga Māori, kua pakari ake tōna whakapono, he tikanga whai hua ā te Māori hei whakatika raru taiao. (A degree in environmental science and diploma in mātauranga Māori have reinforced her belief that a Māori perspective offers unique tools to deal with environmental disaster.)
My past experience with applying mātauranga started when I was an undergrad student at uni. At the time, I did a whale stranding research using mātauranga to explain why whales strand, integrating that with what the science said. From there, I kind of changed paths a bit and started working within the RMA process, Resource Management Act framework.
Those experiences told me that there was a real gap with how cultural values are explained or how cultural values are assessed within that process by the authorities. So that concerned me, but I then discovered that Kepa had built a mauri model, and I thought that’s what we need, we needed a tool like that.
Dr Kepa Morgan
The efforts of the scientific and engineering communities and their research tend to focus on more immediate results, which are tied to economic outcomes, and in a sense maybe mid-term outcomes for the community, but what they are weak in terms of assessing is the longer-term cultural and environmental impacts.
The challenge then though is how do you measure mauri. Mauri is really a continuum. It’s a continuum between this negative extreme, which is “Mauri moe, mauri noho” where the mauri is exhausted, and the continuum carries right through to here, which is at its very best “Mauri tū, mauri ora” where the mauri is vibrant and it has its fullest potential to support life.
In our assessment, we can assess an indicator or a range of indicators, and if they have no change in terms of an option we’re looking at, then it will score 0. However, if it’s not 0, it will either be positive or negative. For instance, it’s positive but it’s only a partial enhancement, that will score +1. If it’s negative but it’s only a partial diminishing of the mauri, then it will score a -1. At the extremes, we’re heading towards scientific tipping points, really there is no result other than -2. In terms of kaitiakitanga, our tradition ethical driver for enhancing mauri with the intention of bringing mauri to its very best context so that we have a greater chance of survival.
When the Rena ran aground on Ōtāiti, this presented an opportunity to assist in the goal set by the Ministry for the Environment, which was to return the mauri to its pre-Rena state. This gave us the opportunity not only to determine the pre-Rena state of mauri but also to measure the changes in mauri that will result from the options being considered by the insurers.
Dr Ocean Mercier
New Zealand had suffered its worst maritime environmental disaster in the Rena grounding. Kua oti i a Tākuta Kepa Morgan, tētahi pūnaha pūtaiao, ko te mauri tōna pūtake, e taea ai pea te taiao te whakaora anō. (Dr Kepa Morgan had developed a scientific system based on mauri as a tool that could aid the recovery.)
But applying it in the aftermath of the Rena disaster would present many challenges.
Dr Kepa Morgan has developed a scientific system based upon analysing mauri that takes into account the social, economic, environmental and cultural dimensions of a problem.
To trial his system, i haere ia ki te Waiariki ki te whakamātautau i ngā āhuatanga o tana pūnaha ki ngā mahi whakaora i te kaipuke Rena (he went to the Bay of Plenty to see how it could be applied to the recovery operation for the container ship Rena), which grounded on Ōtāiti. For local iwi, his work is vitally important.
Te Ariki Morehu
Ko te toka i tuku - tukia nei e te kaipuke he mahinga kai te Iwi noho i runga o Motiti. Tēra kāinga i te wā ia rātou he mahinga kai, hei whaingaia hoki te hunga e noho ki Maketu, koirā te manawa pā ki tēra toka hoatu kia nei e te kaipuke. No reira, ka pā ngā kōrero mō te mauri ō te toka, nā – ko tēra mea to mauri he manawa pā-rawa te iwi Māori ki tēra mea – ki te mauri nā te mea ngā mahi kai ahakoa kei hea ka whakatakoto ia te mauri, hei awhina i ngā karakia hei tohu ko wai te hunga nā rātou i whakatokoto te mauri – ngā karakia i tukuna ana e rātou i tēra - i te wā ia rātou, kāore e rongona ana i tēnei wā. Ēngari ko te mauri - ko ngā mauri kei reira tonu. (The rock that the ship hit was a food store for the people residing on Mōtītī. That area in their time was a food-gathering place for the people at Maketu. That’s the connection to that rock that was hit by the ship. It has affected the mauri of that rock. Mauri is something that Māori are really in tune with because the areas used to gather food, no matter where, the mauri is placed to aid karakia to signify those that placed the mauri. The karakia recited in their time, they are not heard today, but the mauri is still there.)
I think the way we are brought up – well, in my days you didn’t have a lesson about mauri, it was just a part of who you were and part of being Māori. It’s tied to tapu as well, so all those things, and respect for your environment was just part of who you are. And I think that’s why it’s so hard for our people to talk about it in isolation, because it’s just part of who they are, which is why Kepa’s model was good for bringing out what’s an intrinsic value. To me, it’s about respect for life and for things the creators have made, our tūpunas, our gods, and we have to maintain that mauri because it’s an intrinsic part of being Māori.
Dr Kepa Morgan
Early claims to the Waitangi Tribunal were all about contemporary grievances. These focused on the cultural offence created by negative impacts on the environment, and what came up in all of those early cases was the impact upon mauri. Now that led to a change in New Zealand law, and the Environment Act introduced as its priority the protection of the intrinsic values of ecosystems.
Now in the current context we have the Rena running aground at Ōtāiti, and we need to think about what that impact has been on the mauri. Now to do that, what we’ve done is we’ve looked at the decisions that are coming regarding the wreck of the Rena and the contamination and how that will be dealt with.
Now in terms of the Resource Management Act, that requires us to think of the environment wellbeing, the social wellbeing, the economic wellbeing and the cultural wellbeing, these represented by the four dimensions of the mauri model.
Now just to replay what happened when the Rena ran aground, it came through late at night/early morning coming from Gisborne to Tauranga. It ran aground onto Ōtāiti, and it didn’t initially spill its container cargo and that, but as we know, there was oil that was spilt into the water, and that actually dispersed and came up onto the different beaches, and there was a need for a recovery. There was also containers then were distributed back to Matakana, Maketu and down the coast. So this led to an immediate response to the environmental impact, but then there were also economical impacts, social impacts and cultural impacts that needed to be taken into account.
In terms of our involvement, we had a model that could assess the pre-Rena state of mauri. It could also assess how the mauri was recovering in terms of the four dimensions, and so we needed to get on the ground, talk to the local hapū and iwi and establish what their understanding of that was.
I think mauri is a concept that we live by, particularly when you deal with environmental issues, it’s a real key consideration. In terms of our mauri assessment, there’s a couple of reasons why we chose to do that kind of work. One of the reasons is that the Rena recovery plan, its main goal is to restore the mauri to its pre-Rena environment, so you need to do some sort of assessment around mauri to be able to make an informed decision about where things are at with the status of the environment. But another reason is that, in everything we do here in Te Arawa Maketu, we like to ensure that there are cultural mātauranga components to any research that we do and especially projects that are government led. We like to ensure that cultural things are given consideration.
Dr Kepa Morgan
Our research approach has been something called participatory action research. Now to do that, we held a series of workshops and wānanga with Te Arawa Ki Tai, the most recent being at Whakaue Kaipapa behind us.
In those workshops, we look at pre-Rena state in terms of mauri and a post-Rena state in terms of mauri. Now to determine that state, we need to look at what used to happen and what happens now. So we use a technique called cultural opportunity mapping. That looks at the historic practices right up until the point that the Rena grounding occurred, and then it looks at how those practices are constrained by the imposition of the Rena on Ōtāiti.
From that then we look 50, a hundred years into the future, and we look at the practices we’d like to see our whakatipuranga, our grandchildren, their children, their grandchildren and the practices we’d like to see them being able to undertake in this ecosystem. That allows us to identify relevant indicators to determine the impacts upon mauri. And from then until now and then into the future, we can see what’s necessary and what the correct approaches need to be to fully restore the mauri to its pre-Rena state.
The other technique that we use in those workshops is a stakeholder analysis, and we conduct that to identify world-view bias and determine which groups will prioritise which dimensions of mauri the highest. We know some focus quite strongly on the economic outcomes, while others have a greater focus on the longer-term ecosystem and the mauri of the hapū and the iwi. Those are very long-term compared to the short-term impacts economically.
Dr Ocean Mercier
Dr Kepa Morgan took his mauri-ometer to the Bay of Plenty to see how it could be applied to the recovery plan in the aftermath of the Rena disaster. The Ministry for the Environment specifically included mauri as a key indicator of success.
But convincing the authorities of the benefits of a holistic rather than economic approach would require a paradigm shift.
Mauri is the key indicator of life for our people, and Dr Kepa Morgan had applied a mauri measurement model to the environmental impact caused by the grounding of the container ship Rena.
His model took into account the economic, social, environmental and cultural impacts caused by New Zealand’s worst maritime environmental disaster.
Mā tenei mahi āna, ka puta he rongoā i te iwi Māori hei tautoko i te rautaki whakaora a te Kāwanatanga (This would provide a truly Māori response to assist with the government’s recovery plan), which has the restoration of mauri as a central principle.
Te Ariki Morehu
Tēnei mea te mauri, me kōrero ki ngā tamariki, ki te hunga rangatahi e hiahia ana ki te mōhio mō te tikanga ō te mauri. Te mauri me hoki rātou ki ō rātou pakeke kōrero, patai ai pēhea te āhua ō ngā mauri kei ō rātou whenua. Kāre he tika ma tētahi noa atu e kōrero ā me pēnei tō mauri i kōna. Kāo, kāore he tika tera. Rātou ki a rātou, tātou ki a tātou. (Mauri is something that should be taught to the children and youth wanting to learn about tikanga. They should return to their elders to ask about mauri on their lands. It is not right for another to say your mauri must be like this. No, that is not right. That is for them. This is for us).
Dr Kepa Morgan
From our workshops we established the pre-Rena state of mauri over a period of 100 years leading up to the disaster event. Now in looking at that, we looked at the four dimensions separately, and we looked at individual indicators within each of those dimensions. Those indicators and those dimensions are affected at different times over that 100 years. However, we note that there’s a constant decline in mauri for all four dimensions, and those decline for different periods of time.
So we can see that, in this graph, where we see the continuous trend running through, it’s coming below the 0 line, and then we have a pronounced result in terms of the Rena. So we have, from this point, a reduction in the collective capacity of that ecosystem, of the people of the hapū and iwi.
When we we’re in the wharenui at Maketu talking about the mauri and the damage caused by the Rena, what it revealed his model was, well hold on, there have been just as bad damages done to our environment as – you know, the Rena is bad, but for Maketu, the diversion of the Kaituna River out at the break at Tai Timu has actually had a worse impact. And so through his model, we had to admit that, we couldn’t put all the blame on Rena for the damage to the environment, and that model forced us to acknowledge that.
Dr Kepa Morgan
We look at this mauri-ometer, we can see that the three options are shown. The first option is do nothing. Now that’s involving removing what wreckage remained above sea level. Primarily, that just means the aesthetics are back to how they were. The next option is tidying up the wreck to remove debris contaminants. The third option is to remove the wreck. Now this is the only option that iwi and hapū would consider as acceptable, and there’s several good reasons for that. One is that, if the wreck is allowed to remain with debris and other cargo that are considered too difficult or dangerous or expensive to remove, then those contaminants – the wreck itself – become a part of that ecosystem over time. That ecosystem is who those iwi and hapū are. So when that becomes a part of that ecosystem, it also becomes a part of those people.
Now in terms of the impact upon mauri, that is quite significant, so the pronounced decline in mauri is remaining. So if we look at this, it shows only one of these three options enhances mauri, and that’s the removal of the wreck. And for that reason, based on the principles of kaitiakitanga, iwi and hapū won’t accept anything less than that.
Dr Ocean Mercier
Hei tā Pia Bennett, kei te tautoko ngā hua o te mahi a Kepa i tōna ake whakapono, arā, mēnā e hiahia ana tātou ki te whakaora i te taiao, me rapu huarahi hōu. (For Pia Bennett, Kepa’s results reinforce her belief that, to come to grips with environmental remediation, new methodologies are required.)
My thoughts on the prelim results at this stage are that they show that there has been a decline in mauri for some time. Going forward, I would like to see authorities and decision makers get a better understanding of the mauri principle and how it can actually be the benchmark for determining what a sustainable decision looks like.
Well, I have to say I was a bit sceptical at first, because I haven’t had any experience of the model. I’d heard about it, and I know Kepa – you know, he whanaunga. I was a bit sceptical, but what I really like about it was that it draws you in and it draws out your thoughts. You can go there and say, “Okay, have a hui about mauri.” But when you have his model that you’re contributing to, it brings out all the little bits of information that people have, and it’s a real good discussion piece for getting involved and recognising everybody’s input, which I loved.
Dr Kepa Morgan
Now that we have our results from the analysis, we’ve been able to present that back to Te Arawa Ki Tai, and we’ve also been presenting the results at conferences. What we’ve found though is that our results are actually not in agreement with other reports that are being produced. There’s reluctance amongst some parties to consider our research. Our research is actually holistic. It takes into account all of the mauri dimensions. The other reports are very focused, and they’re looking at single indicators within a dimension, so they don’t give the full picture. We’re looking at digitising the mauri model. That process is already under way, and this is an example of the printout that will occur in terms of a report on a particular issue.
This will strengthen the understanding not only of iwi and hapū in terms of how the mauri model can assist our understanding, but also non-Māori because this tool is actually – it belongs to everybody. So what we’ll have is a result like this, and if a particular world view don’t agree with that result, they’ll be able to modify that outcome using their own world view priorities. That’ll be hugely advantageous, and it should move towards an understanding of what the feasible option is for restoring the mauri to its pre-Rena state, which is the removal of the wreck from Ōtāiti.
Te Ariki Morehu
Ka hoki kō muri ki Mōtītī ki ahau kōre kō ngāu rapa kō te whare toetoe, ka muri aroha ki te whenua nei ki waiho nei hei tīheru ai mō te iwi e ko koia e ara e.
Ara ka hoki anō ngā kōrero i roto i te pātere nei ki ngā āhuatanga i mahia e rātou i runga ō Mōtītī. Nō hea ngā kai? Nō te moana, Nō runga i te whenua. (Going back to the words in this chant, to the thing they did on Mōtītī Island. Where is the food from? It is from the sea and the land.)
Dr Ocean Mercier
The wreck of the container ship Rena on Ōtāiti was a disaster for local iwi – economically, socially, environmentally and culturally.
Dr Kepa Morgan’s mauri model has provided a means to analyse the impact of the disaster recovery operation. It provides an innovative method for a holistic response that is both scientific and cultural, not just for Māori but for the many indigenous people who share our world view.
Whether the mainstream is willing and able to make the paradigm shift from money to mauri is an open question, but Kepa’s model is now available as a tool for all iwi to use.
Video courtesy of Scottie Productions.
© Scottie Productions 2013.