He kete hauora taiao: A Bicultural Ecological Assessment Framework
Ka mau tonu ngā taonga tapu o ngā matua tupuna Koinei ngā taonga i tuku iho, na te ātua Hold fast to the treasures of the ancestors For they are the treasures that have been handed down to us by God’ (Dymond, 2013, p. 274) Ecologists, resource managers, landowners and iwi generally strive to manage biodiversity on their whenua as obliged by legislation. This may include restoration, protection, the mitigation of negative human impacts, or the prevention of further habitat loss. Mainstream ecological science and resource management (ERM) usually guides management decisions and provides evidence of management effectiveness. However, ecological science can struggle with stochastic and complex biological systems. Māori have hundreds of years of environmental knowledge and understanding that could be utilised by mainstream resource managers to enhance society's combined knowledge. An assessment tool that places mātauranga at its core can introduce a Māori perspective, privilege Māori knowledge, enable holistic co-management, re/introduce social values and create a common ground on which the two paradigms can connect. He Kete Hauora Taiao is an environmental assessment framework for terrestrial habitats constructed on Māori ecological health indicators by applying them to quantitative ecological scientific data. He Kete Hauora Taiao is built on the Driver – Pressure – State/Condition – Indicator – Response framework (K. F. D. Hughey, Cullen, Kerr, & Cook, 2004). Māori ecological perspectives or ariā (indicators, perspectives or concepts) are placed at the ‘condition’ level. Ariā include concepts such as mauri, whakapapa, tapu, wairua and mahinga kai which are linked to environmental structures, processes, functions and services. These ecological indicators can then be assessed with recognised qualitative scientific tools, metrics and targets. ESAT, Ecological State Assessment Tool, is a database that accompanies He Kete Hauora Taiao and enables quantitative ecological data to be viewed through a Māori perspective and weighted according to its relevance to management objectives. Creating a new bicultural environmental assessment framework required the exploration of the intersection between Māori ecological knowledge (MEK) and ERM. To my knowledge this is the first MEK based ecological assessment framework created specifically for terrestrial habitats and the first one to attempt to quantify MEK ecological indicators, relate them to ecology and resource management metrics and develop an interface between the two epistemologies. He Kete Hauora Taiao and ESAT (Ecological Statement Assessment Tool) are valuable resource management tools. Together they can create resource management programmes informed by a Māori value framework and are tailored to specific whenua, iwi agendas and political reporting and management requirements. He Kete Hauora Taiao spans the intersection between ERM and MEK, enabling communication and translation. MEK may provide context to scientific data and the scientific data may help augment understanding of MEK. Combined, MEK and ERM may create a powerful force that could vastly improve our resource management and conservation efforts. He Kete Hauora Taiao is a framework that could be engaged with by territorial authorities, iwi kaitiaki and landowners nationwide to automatically build te ao Māori into our management practices.