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  • Rights: Crown Copyright 2020
    Published 15 October 2020 Referencing Hub media

    Shaun Awatere discusses some of the impacts climate change will pose to mātauranga Māori, using the maramataka as an example.

    Questions for discussion:

    • How is climate change adding uncertainty to the maramataka?
    • How might climate change impact the ability to manaaki?



    An additional impact of climate change is going to be on the retention of mātauranga Māori. One example of an implied practice of mātauranga Maori is using the maramataka – the Māori lunar calendar. It was a tool that was able to utilise all this knowledge that Māori had gained over a number of years through their close association with the natural environment to make informed observations about what were the best seasons, times and days to go out and harvest various natural resources like tuna and other things that were useful for helping people to survive.

    Climate change has the potential to throw out those observations that the maramataka had been based upon. For example, when we look at some of the signs for when the right season is to plant a particular crop – say kūmara – what we’re finding is that the warmer temperatures during winter actually create the conditions for an earlier season. In the North Island areas that are really good for growing kūmara, the colder seasons might be getting a bit warmer. What we are also seeing is that those areas are more prone for drought, and it is going to have an impact on the survivability of those types of crops like kūmara.

    So another tohu that is associated with the maramataka is that, when the pōhutukawa tree blossoms, then that’s sending a tohu that marine species like the kina are about ready to be harvested. What we’re seeing is the pōhutukawa trees are starting to blossom a lot earlier, but we’re still uncertain as to whether the kina is ready to be harvested at that time.

    Also, ocean acidification or the acid levels are changing in those coastal environments as well. So climate change raises CO2 levels in our oceans, which then has an impact on lifeforms such as pipi, such as pāua, such as kina – those key taonga species are going to be at more risk of dying out. Now that’s going to be a huge and significant impact on the ability of iwi and hapū to be able to manaaki, to care for their people, to care for manuhiri, because a lot of their wellbeing is received from the harvesting of natural resources like kaimoana, like seafood from those coastal environments.

    Dr Shaun Awatere, Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research
    Maramataka dial, courtesy of Ayla Hoeta and Matua Rereata Makiha. Sourced from The Spinoff
    Ngāti Hauā Mahi trust plant nursery kaimahi, University of Waikato, and Waikato Regional Council
    Kina and harvesting kina, Matty P, Earthly Eats
    Shot of kumara patch, Koanga Institute
    Waimarie McFarland of Te Pane O Mataoho and Nicola Kawana planting kumara with traditional tools. Whānau Living, Adrenalin Group
    Pohutakawa in bloom, Flint Whincup
    Diving for paua, Chris van der Leer


    This resource has been produced with the support of the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ. (c) Crown Copyright.

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