By Vicky Thorn, Pūkenga Rautaki Hauora / Hauora Manager, TeRūnanga o Ngāti Kuia Trust.

Vicky spoke at the Kai mō Aotearoa Food Science meeting on the K7 Ahu Whenua Trust’s approach to Mātauranga Māori.

The meeting focused on the sustainable utilisation of native biodiversity in Aotearoa New Zealand for the betterment of health and wellbeing. It began with an introduction to native species that are indigenous to Aotearoa, emphasising their contemporary relevance in promoting wellbeing, and the science behind the products and potential use for wellbeing.

One key theme explored during the gathering is the concept of Mātauranga Māori in a biodiversity context, recognising the cultural significance and value it carries. Mātauranga Māori embodies a deep respect for the land, its resources and the interconnectedness between people and their environment. It represents a holistic approach to understanding and harnessing the natural world.

An interpretation provided by one whānau (family) emphasises that Mātauranga Māori underscores the intrinsic importance of the land and its resources. In this context, the K7 Ahu Whenua Trust exemplifies the application of Mātauranga Māori by striving to unlock the potential of the land they are custodians of, despite facing initial challenges. Their goal is to create opportunities for the whānau’s prosperity, growth and cultural revitalisation through a holistic approach that respects and honours the land and its heritage.

In essence, the meeting explores how indigenous knowledge and values, encapsulated in Mātauranga Māori, can be leveraged to promote sustainability, health and wellbeing while respecting

unique cultural perspective and significance of the land and its resources in Aotearoa New Zealand.

It highlights the potential for a harmonious co-existence between modern-day approaches to health and the rich cultural heritage of the region. The key to the harmonious blend is firstly, under the principles of Te Tiriti, the acknowledgement of the species and the guardianship Kaitiaki responsibilities held.

The question should be how do we protect and enhance the species for future generations and not exploit the use and benefits for commercialism? There is the true relationship. The speakers I was privy to listen to all had expertise and each gave me an insight into how much more we must learn together.