Ngā Rangahau | Our research

Current research projects

Ko ngā kaumātua ō tātou taonga: Supporting kaumātua health in a changing world’

Funded by the Health Research Council
‘Ko ngā kaumātua ō tātou taonga: Supporting kaumātua health in a changing world’ aims to explore mātauranga Māori in relation to hauora, health and wellbeing amongst Māori elders as voiced by kaumātua in the regions of Te Tai Tokerau and Waikato. The contribution of kaumātua to understanding Māori ageing has been largely overlooked as a potentially transformative contributor to solving persistent and unconscionable health inequities in Aotearoa/New Zealand. We contend that placing the kaumātua voice at the centre of efforts in eradicating health inequities is essential to uplifting the health of older Māori. This qualitative research project is designed to generate innovative insights leading to local but potentially scalable remedies.

Harirū, hongi and hau in the time of COVID-19

Funded by the Health Research Council
The hongi is a form of greeting that involves the pressing of noses and the exchange of hau (breath). It carries deep spiritual meaning for Māori. The gesture is a sign of life and immortality, a sign of peace and wellbeing. The hongi may be followed by a kiss and the harirū (shaking of hands), all gestures that health agencies across the globe have now strongly advised against, and which many iwi have now temporarily banned. Attendance at marae and involvement in cultural practice are long established and integral components for many Māori, and have been shown to underpin Māori wellbeing. Marae are at the heart of many communities and promote social engagement and integration, while also mitigating social isolation for many older Māori. Our qualitative study will highlight the voices of older Māori as they are affected by COVID-19, policy directives and the impact of those directives on Māori communities. We are interested in how cultural practices that underpin tikanga will be applied within Māori communities and the role of kaumātua in developing and implementing changes. Our focus on kaumātua and their role in Māori communities is designed to ensure that communities who experience health inequities are not further disadvantaged through New Zealand’s response to the current COVID-19 disease threat.

Read Covid-19: Vital that tikanga adapts again

‘Mā mua ka kite a muri; mā muri ka ora a mua’: Community responsibilities for kaumātua wellbeing in two Tai Tokerau rohe

Funded by Ageing Well National Science Challenge
This study aims to examine kaumātua, whānau, iwi and health services responsibility for kaumātua wellbeing. The project builds on findings from a feasibility study conducted through 2018, which suggested that kaumātua prize their personal health somewhat less than the health of their whānau and younger generations, and that their obligations as kaumātua occupy their thoughts more than their own health issues. These findings resonate with suggestions in the research literature that Māori worldviews prioritise aspects of wellbeing differently from non-Māori. Capturing the voices of older Māori is key to the project and is essential in wellbeing research if uplifting the wellbeing of Māori is to be achieved. The research uses a kaupapa Māori approach, including qualitative, ethnographic and oral history techniques.
Marama Muru-Lanning, Tia Dawes, Hilary Lapsley and Keri Mills are working alongside kaumātua and kuia of Ngātiwai in collaboration with our community-based researchers, Cilla Moore and Liane Penney.

Home made ukulele used by Ngātiwai kaumātua kapa haka rōpu.

Listening to the voices of our harbours: Kāwhia, Manukau and Whangārei

Funded by Royal Society Te Apārangi Marsden Grant
Marama Muru-Lanning, Keri Mills, Shane Solomon, Gerald Lanning and Professor Jim Igoe are collaborating with flaxroots Māori to investigate past and present kaitiakitanga over Aotearoa’s harbours. The project centres on Kāwhia, Manukau and Whangārei harbours as case sites and asks how kaitiaki understand harbours and how we best care for them.

The word ‘kaitiaki’ has entered our legislation and policy, but in practice it is often used as a convenient Māori shorthand for ‘stakeholder,’ without recognition that the term is profoundly embedded in the culture from which it comes. Kaitiakitanga has deep roots in Māori history, and the concept entered mainstream New Zealand politics as a result of Māori activism in the 1980s, particularly in the Manukau harbour claim led by Dame Nganeko Minhinnick. Our research reclaims the political nature of kaitiakitanga and the work of the women and men who have fought to protect the environment and to be recognised as kaitiaki. We explore how the codification of kaitiakitanga into law and policy has hindered or assisted Māori in their exercise of kaitiaki responsibilities. Ultimately we aim to show the complex and diverse nature of relationships that Māori have with the land-sea environment, and demonstrate the many ways that mātauranga Māori, and the kaitiaki who carry it, are instrumental in the past, present, and future wellbeing of our harbours.

The Marsden research team engage with community at Kāwhia Moana.

Ko te Waimāori tō tātou taonga: Septic tank mitigation in Takahiwai

Funded by Ngā Pae o Te Māramatanga
This community-led project, with Dr Mere Kepa and Ms Luana Pirihi, investigates the impact of septic tank use on surrounding whenua and moana at Takahiwai. The project introduces novel green chemistry methods of maintaining and monitoring septic tanks in collaboration with mātauranga Māori. The research which included a series of community wānanga and hīkoi contributes to a larger community project that is committed to mitigating health and environmental issues at Takahiwai. A short film titled “Flushed” made by Takahiwai kaumātua, residents and JHMRC graduate researchers showcases some of the project’s research findings.

MaaraTech: Wearable devices and Artificial Intelligence systems for orchardists and vintners to maximize fruit value

Funded by the MBIE Endeavour fund
This project aims to explore how Māori orchard, vineyard owners and orchard workers are anticipating the effects of artificial intelligence (AI) robotics technology in agriculture, and whether this aligns with Māori gardening practices and values more broadly, how technologies are adopted, and the effects of adoption within the industry. This social science project, led by Marama Muru-Lanning and Tia Dawes, is part of a larger five-year multi-disciplinary project that aims to develop and integrate new technologies into New Zealand orchard and vineyard operations. Māori growers and workers will help identify potential problems and benefits in the uptake and use of these technologies, and contribute to the design and delivery of the products to ensure that robotics technologies reflect the needs of grower communities.

Dr Marama Muru-Lanning and Dr Henry Williams collect grapevine algorithms in Ahuriri.

100 Years of Tūrangawaewae Marae

Funded by Ngā Pae o Te Māramatanga
To celebrate one hundred years of Tūrangawaewae Marae, the history of Tūrangawaewae will be told, for the first time, in a new book. Sir James Henare was a much loved leader who had a special relationship with Princess Te Puea, the founder of Tūrangawaewae Marae.

Born from the ravages of the New Zealand wars, and the massive land confiscation and poverty that followed, Tūrangawaewae stands as a potent symbol of Māori independence, tenacity and resilience. Combining narrative, archival research, interviews with whānau and illustrations, the book will focus on documenting the histories of the everyday, making visible the hitherto untold stories of the whānau who worked together to build the enduring legacy that is Tūrangawaewae.

Rūaumoko: Te Pōtiki a Ranginui rāua ko Papatūānuku

Funded by QuakeCoRE
The late Evelyn Stokes wrote a seminal work on the Māori oral traditions of earthquakes and geothermal activity, based on archival research and discussions with kaumātua from Te Arawa, Ngāti Awa and Ngāti Tūwharetoa. She was one of the first scholars to integrate Māori oral traditions and geological science. Twenty years later, our project updates her research and extends the original field site to include the voices of kaumātua throughout the North Island. Our project will delve into the Māori histories of earthquakes and earthquake resilience. We want to draw on the longstanding cultural knowledge about earthquakes in Aotearoa in order to inform a larger study on developing earthquake resilience today.

Our project is a qualitative study and we will interview kaumātua about their mātauranga and their experiences of earthquake events. Our research asks if there are any particular issues Māori face or strengths they have developed in the wake of earthquakes.

North Island Māori Rock Art - Initiating a Māori archaeology of threatened North Island rock art

Funded by Royal Society Te Apārangi Marsden Grant
Very little is understood about Māori Rock Art in the North Island. Until the 1980s, there were only 30 recorded rock art sites in the North Island. Today there are over 150 known sites. However, knowledge of traditional rock art across Te Ika-a-Māui iwi, Te Wai Pounamu and Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa, remains scant. Funded by a Marsden Fund Fast-Start grant and led by Gerard O’Regan, this study addresses the question of whether making rock art was a traditional practice shared across North Island iwi, or instead originated as a series of unrelated local innovations of landscape marking.

Dr Gerard O'Regan pointing to a face carved into a cliff in the central North Island.

Supporting kaumātua health in a changing world: A feasibility study in Te Tai Tokerau

Funded by Ageing Well National Science Challenge
Māori conceptions of ageing are traditionally positive and are a strength within many Māori communities. This pilot study within the two Te Tai Tokerau Māori communities of Takahiwai and Ngātiwai provides guidance for a planned larger study. We showed that the kaupapa Māori methods we used – including consultation with communities, noho wānanga (overnight meetings at a hotel location), individual interviews and community feedback – are valued by kaumātua and provide worthwhile research material. Initial findings indicated that kaumātua have a wellbeing approach to health and rely on traditional as well as mainstream health providers and practices. Their concerns around health and wellbeing encompass the wider whānau, particularly mokopuna, perhaps even to the detriment of their own. In light of this, we suggest that a model of whānau and iwi responsibility for kaumātua might be developed when we have findings from larger study.
Marama Muru-Lanning, Tia Dawes and Hilary Lapsley worked alongside kaumātua and kuia of Ngātiwai in collaboration with our community-based researcher, Mere Kepa.

Dr Marama Muru-Lanning and Dr Tia Dawes meeting with Kaumātua and Kuia from Takahiwai and Ngātiwai.