Connecting to the Mauri of the Moana

Using a community based, qualitative monitoring methodology as a process to connect with and consider the mauri of local marine ecosystems.


In Aotearoa New Zealand there is a sustained shift towards acknowledging, honouring and integrating Māori perspectives, knowledge and cultural practice into various fields of societal activity, including resource, land and ocean management.

In the marine space this includes multiple examples of iwi/hapu led initiatives using customary management structures and practices such as Taiapure, Mataitai and Rahui. Concurrently a growing number of similar initiatives include involvement from the wider community.

An example of this is the Sea Change – Tai Timu Tai Pari Marine Spatial Plan, which sets out a vision for restoring the mauri of the Hauraki Gulf – Tikapa Moana/Te Moananui ā Toi. Within the spatial plan is the “Ahu Moana” initiative, which envisages “A 50:50 co-management approach between mana whenua and local communities”.

What is particularly attractive is that this approach dreamed about what ‘could be’, instead of being quagmired in what ‘is’. Te Ao Māori concepts of mana and mauri and the Mātauranga Māori and Kaitiakitanga principles, knowledge systems and practices that support them are central to this initiative. But while those bodies of knowledge and ways of knowing, being and doing are gaining wider acceptance in principle, this does not necessarily translate into a wider community understanding of their importance, value and foundational underpinnings. This has the potential to be a barrier to successful co-management initiatives such as Ahu Moana. Through participatory action research this thesis investigates a potential pathway to overcoming this barrier.

Using a qualitative, community-based monitoring methodology to connect to the mauri of local marine ecosystems, this research aims to address the following questions:


    • Can we intuitively understand and articulate the qualitative health and state of the mauri of marine ecosystems?
    • Can a community-based, qualitative survey methodology provide consistent, ‘real time’ feedback that can inform responsive and appropriate management actions?
    • Does this way of monitoring and practice fit with and support Mātauranga and Kaitiakitanga and does it provide an opportunity for cross-cultural cooperation and understanding, in relation to the moana, at a community level and in keeping with Te Tiriti O Waitangi?
    • Can this way of monitoring and practice lead to a more Ocean-centric relationship between human communities and the moana?
    • How does this qualitative approach compare/differ to scientific, quantitative monitoring methods in terms of process and outcomes?


Doctoral candidate Glenn Edney

About the researchers

Glenn Edney, Maori and Pacific Studies, Faculty of Arts

Dr Daniel Hikuroa, Maori and Pacific Studies, Faculty of Arts