The Science of Māui – harnessing the haututū within

19 July 2018

Coastal Marine Science of M​ā​ui
Students and staff involved in The Science of M​ā​ui at Coastal Marine Field Station.

He uiui, he whakamātau te mahi. Ko Māui Tikitiki a Taranga te tauira! Nau mai haere mai, koutou ngā rangatahi o Tauranga Moana.

The task is to enquire and to examine. And Māui is the exemplar! To the rangatahi of Tauranga Moana, welcome one and all.

This ​was the essence of the invitation ​to Year 10 rangatahi Māori of local colleges and kura kaupapa to participate in a day of science at the University of Waikato Coastal Marine Field Station on Thursday 26 July. In a​ ​collaboration between the University’s Faculty of Science and Engineering and Tauranga iwi, and with facilitation support from Manaaki Te Awanui, The Science of M​ā​ui saw the rangatahi working alongside our scientists in the field and in the lab to try to unlock some of the secrets of the Tauranga and Bay of Plenty coastline.

Participating schools in this pilot programme were Aquinas College, Otumoetai College, Tauranga Boys' College, Tauranga Girls' College and Te Kaupapa Māori o te Kura Kokiri​.

The programme included a glimpse into the history of Tauranga Moana, with practical work undertaken to uncover some of the consequences of climate change – specifically ocean acidification and how crustaceans are adapting to our changing waterways.

Coastal Marine Field Station scientist Dr Phil Ross was pleased to share his knowledge and passion for our coastal environment. ​“This was a great opportunity to get our young people involved in science," he says. "Everyone has an interest in the health of our environment and in this wānanga we shared the skills needed to delve into the environmental history of Tauranga Harbour and to plan for its sustainable future. My University of Waikato colleagues and I were also able to give the students a tour of the field station and hopefully encourage some to consider becoming scientists themselves.”

Feedback from participating schools after the event was overwhelmingly positive. Aquinas College students Whetu Marama and Libby said that they found the day fun and informative: " We got to learn about the harbour and how it relates to the history of Tauranga along with the Māori culture. We thoroughly enjoyed the fieldwork, where we took samples of the sand and shells in the harbour. We learnt how the sand and harbour changed over time by the colour and texture of the sand. Also we studied the various sea creatures in our harbour and how they grow and survive in the ocean. Overall it was a really fun, exciting experience and we would recommend it to anyone interested in marine biology."

Tauranga iwi were very much part of the organisation behind the event, with Buddy Mikaere from Ngāi Tamarāwaho supporting the planning for the initiative. “It's a subject which the hapū believes makes best use of location, local hapū and iwi traditional knowledge and, of course, the expertise that the university brings. We look forward to the initiative becoming a pathway for our rangatahi to a greater participation in environmental science and biodiversity studies which is clearly an area of study for future expansion. It's especially important to Tauranga Moana because of our coastal location and the need to ensure that the continuing expansion of the city is not at the expense of our environment and of our traditional cultural values.”

Ngāi Tamarāwaho’s views are upheld by members of the Ngāi Te Rangi iwi whose spokesperson Whaea Kia Maia Ellis emphasises the importance of reaching rangatahi at an early age. “We have seen first-hand through our taiao and mātauranga focussed rangatahi programme ‘Koi Ora’ that our kids are passionate and keen to learn more. There's certainly a lot of potential for rangatahi of Tauranga Moana to follow marine and environmental science careers. Creating the pathways in science is a key initiative that provides our rangatahi with high quality local options for tertiary study once they complete their college years."

Thanks to the success of The Science of M​ā​ui, the University of Waikato and iwi are working together to ensure that the programme will expand and similar opportunities will be enjoyed by more Bay of Plenty rangatahi in the near future.

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