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  • In ecological terms, wetlands are ecotones – transitional habitats between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. They provide a mixture of habitats and are capable of supporting a diverse range of plant and animal species.

    In cultural terms, wetlands are taonga. They hold historical, cultural, economic and spiritual significance for Māori.

    Rights: Crown copyright

    Te ao Māori and repo

    Te ao Māori (the Māori world view) recognises the connections between all living and non-living things.

    Select here to view video transcript and copyright information.

    These ecological and cultural values underpin resources the Hub have developed using Te Reo o Te Repo – The Voice of the Wetland, a wetland restoration handbook. The Hub’s educational resources explore the connections between repo, plant and animal species and people with a kaupapa Māori approach. They recognise the significant insights mana whenua have about these special ecosystems and the role mātauranga Māori can play in their restoration.

    There’s been work done to show that 90% of our wetlands have been destroyed since European settlement. We have only 10% left – one of the worst records in the western world on a global scale. Many of the wetlands that remain are steadily degrading because there’s too little water, there are too many weeds, too many pests and too many nutrients. Unless we do something about these wetlands, we’re just going to lose them. We’re going to lose the tikanga and the resources that iwi grew up with. So it’s about helping our wetlands but also looking at it from different perspectives and trying to bring back or restore all aspects of wetlands. The cultural aspect is really important.

    Dr Bev Clarkson, plant ecologist, Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research

    Teaching in context

    Repo connections and repo restoration can form a rich real-life context for developing students’ thinking, visioning and problem-solving skills and an array of key competencies.

    They allow students to explore:

    • numerous science concepts – biodiversity, habitats, food webs, ecosystems, ecosystem services and ecosystem connections
    • mātauranga Māori concepts – whakapapa, tikanga, rangatiratanga, whanaungatanga, kaitiakitanga, manaakitanga and wairuatanga
    • nature of science – science and mātauranga Māori are valuable knowledge systems, and each can contribute to our understanding of repo and inform repo restoration
    • cross-curricular learning that incorporates local curriculum principles.
    Rights: Crown copyright

    Cultural indicators

    Wetland species can act as cultural indicators and as environmental indicators. Their presence – or absence – can tell us about the health of an ecosystem.

    Select here to view video transcript and copyright information.

    Curriculum links

    The suite of repo resources explores Living World and Planet Earth and Beyond concepts:

    • Living things are suited to their particular environment.
    • Living things depend on each other and on the environment in which they live.
    • Changes in any part of an environment affect the relationships between the plants and animals that live there.
    • Changes in any part of an environment can hinder or improve the chances of some species surviving.
    • Natural features can be changed by human actions.
    • Earth’s resources are affected by human actions.

    The resources also explore key social science strands including Place and Environment and Continuity and Change.

    Taking action to understand, protect or restore local repo

    Environmental monitoring and restoration experiences provide opportunities for inquiry and action learning. It is not always possible to conduct fieldwork or engage with a wetland restoration project, but engaging students’ curiosity and raising awareness of repo can become a form of action as students take this information to whānau and the wider community.

    Wetlands – inquiry and action learning process

    Wetland ecosystems hold significant environmental and cultural value in Aotearoa. Learning about these values and the steps we can take to protect and uphold the values are suited to inquiry investigations. This interactive guides you through the process.

    Resources to support learning

    The following English-language resources provide wraparound learning about repo, incorporating information from Te Reo o Te Repo – The Voice of the Wetland:

    Te whakamahi i ngā rauemi o Tuihonoa Te Reo o Te Repo hei whakarite ara whakaako is a collection of te reo Māori resources drawn from Te Reo o Te Repo – The Voice of the Wetland.

    The Te repo/wetlands collection features our resources on repo /wetlands – it is a public collection that you can copy and use as you need (you just need to be signed into our site).

    For more about collections see our helpful article here.

    Related content

    Rivers and Us – a context for learning follows some of these same principles using stream health monitoring and restoration.

    Tōku awa koiora – introduction explores river ecology with a kaupapa Māori approach.

    Waitī – freshwater environments notes the supreme importance of water quality on mauri, mahinga kai and manaakitanga.

    Aotearoa has abundant freshwater resources. The Hub has an abundance of freshwater resources too. We’ve got them organised in this handy interactive, complete with a PLD article to get you started!

    Useful links

    Wetland Restoration: A handbook for New Zealand freshwater systems provides an ecosystem approach towards understanding, protecting and enhancing the remaining wetlands of Aotearoa.

    Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research has published several resources with te ao Māori approaches:

    • Te Reo o Te Repo – The Voice of the Wetland – handbook
    • Māori values and wetland enhancement – poster
    • Māori environmental monitoring: processes and indicators – poster
    • Taonga classifications and species – poster

    Pūniu River Care uses a te ao Māori approach to restoration.

    See the articles in the New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 2018 Special Issue: Mātauranga Māori shaping marine and freshwater futures.

    See the range of wetland educational resources on Matuku Link – the aim is to provide valuable educational materials about wetlands to teachers, students and nature enthusiasts


    Thank you to the editors and contributors of Te Reo o Te Repo – The Voice of the Wetland for permission and support to adapt this publication, and funding from Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research and MBIE’s Unlocking Curious Minds initiative.

    Rights: Crown Copyright

    The Voice of the Wetlands

    The handbook Te Reo o Te Repo – The Voice of the Wetland forms the basis of the collection of resources funded by Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research and MBIE’s Unlocking Curious Minds initiative.

      Published 19 November 2020 Referencing Hub articles
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