Monday, April 28, 2008

Tiaki Mahinga Kai

I have recently distanced myself from the newly established Te Tiaki Mahinga Kai project (TMK), a research programme designed around the establishment and management of customary fishing areas, known to Maori as mātaitai, taiāpure , and rahui. There is a wider agenda of sustainable environmental management through the application of kaitiakitanga (Māori environmental stewardship). My concerns echo those I held when a PhD candidate affiliated to the Lincoln CoRE and its Matauranga Maori theme. Essentially these concerns are the lack of a Kaupapa Maori approach (and mere lipservice to Participatory Action Research...PAR); inconsiderate and inappropriate interactions with Maori by non-Maori researchers; unprofessional management that includes endemic bullying, a lack of transparency, and not following agreed processes.

While my concerns are centred on a few leading individuals, it is quite remarkable to observe the repetition of a flawed approach to what is a vital research need. In the FRST (the Foundation for Research, Science, and Technology) proposal, mention of a PAR approach seems to be all that is required. It does raise the question of how PAR is to be audited (Nga Pae o te Maramatanga at least undertakes site visits to ascertain adherence to Kaupapa Maori).

Anyways, I have added TMK and Maori customary fisheries in general to my research interests. For those who followed my earlier travails, I have walked before being pushed, broken the shackles of crap research yet again...always a bettter position to take!

It does beg the (philosophical) question of what exactly does contemporary Maori socio-ecological resilience looks like?. The emphasis from funders, such as FRST through their Vision Matauranga strategy is to assume Matauranga Maori (Maori knowledge and philosophy) has some productive value as a discrete input. Certainly it provides a rationale for research proposals such as that won by TMK ($1 million over 4 years; sounds a lot but doesn't actually go far...those pakeha researchers are expensive!).

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Simon Lambert

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