Wednesday, April 23, 2014

National Science Challenges: second tranche assessment panels announced

Given the recent furore over the cutting of funding for Nga Pae o te Maramatanga and the ongoing concerns over the National Science Challenges, some might be interested in who is assessing the Vision Matauranga (VM) component. The panels - listed here - name Paula Searle ('Aging Well'), Barry Poata Smith ('A better start' and 'Healthier Lives'), Charlotte Severne ('Biological Heritage', 'Land and Water', and 'Sustainable Seas'), and Colin Knox ('Science for Technological Innovation') as Vision Matauranga assessors for the second tranche of NSC funding.

I make no comment on their abilities (qualifications and associations are listed for all panellists) other than to note that we seem to have an incredibly limited selection pool for the allocation of tens of millions of dollars of research funding over the next decade: four VM assessors over seven pots of paua?!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Indigenous Peoples and Disasters: opportunities and obligations of efficiency

Friday the 11th I delivered a public lecture at the School of Economics and Finance, Victoria University in Wellington/Poneke at the invitation of Professor Ilan Noy, Chair of Disaster

The paper is linked off our Lincoln University Maori Resilience webpage, here.

I also gave a lecture to Professor Noy's class in disaster economics on the Wednesday, a nice warm up.

In between I attended a seminar on Gender and Disaster.

To top it all off I got a wave from the (possible/future) king.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Maori and Climate change

The latest report from the IPCC firms up their previous conclusions on a) the planet warming, and b) this warming being primarily human-induced.

While the full report is a massive collaborative effort, I'll just make a few comments on the impacts on Indigenous Peoples. Chapter 25 is on Australasia with an impressive list of authors (that includes one of my Masters supervisors Prof. Jon Barnett). I know several of those authors cited (click on link for full references) and respect their work. My comments - in red... - are merely my own thoughts and challenges.

The projected impacts of climate change on Māori society are expected to be highly differentiated, reflecting complex economic, social, cultural, environmental and political factors (high confidence). Since the AR4, studies have been either sector-specific (e.g. Insley, 2007; Insley and Meade, 2008; Harmsworth et al., 2010; King et al., 2012) or more general, inferring risk and vulnerability based on exploratory engagements with varied stakeholders and existing social, economic, political and ecological conditions (e.g. MfE, 2007b; Te Aho, 2007; King et al., 2010).

The Māori economy depends on climate-sensitive primary industries with vulnerabilities to climate conditions (high confidence; Packman et al., 2001; NZIER, 2003; Cottrell et al., 2004; TPK, 2007; Tait et al., 2008b; Harmsworth et al., 2010; King et al., 2010; Nana et al., 2011a). I think this too narrow a framework to examine the impacts: most Maori are barely aware of this so-called 'Maori economy'. We are highly reliant on the wider NZ economy. Much of Māori-owned land is steep (>60%) and susceptible to damage from high intensity rainstorms, while many lowland areas are vulnerable to flooding and sedimentation (Harmsworth and Raynor, 2005; King et al., 2010). Land in the east and north is also drought prone, and this increases uncertainties for future agricultural performance, product quality and investment (medium confidence; Cottrell et al., 2004; Harmsworth et al., 2010; King et al., 2010). The fisheries and aquaculture sector faces substantial risks (and uncertainties) from changes in ocean temperature and chemistry, potential changes in species composition, condition and productivity levels (medium confidence; King et al., 2010; see also 25.6.2). At the community and individual level, Māori regularly utilize the natural environment for hunting and fishing, recreation, the maintenance of traditional skills and identity, and collection of cultural resources (King and Penny, 2006; King et al., 2012). Maori are 84% urban and pursue urban pastimes. This does not mean the natural environment is not important - reconnecting with marae and hapu lands and waters is regularly argued for by our rangatahi - but it does reflect a lifestyle choice and commitment.  Many of these activities are already compromised due to resource-competition, degradation and modification (Woodward et al., 2001; King et al., 2012). Climate change driven shifts in natural ecosystems will further challenge the capacities of some Māori to cope and adapt (medium confidence; King et al., 2012).

Māori organizations have sophisticated business structures HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, governance (e.g. trusts, incorporations) and networks (e.g. Iwi leadership groups) across the state and private sectors (Harmsworth et al., 2010; Insley, 2010; Nana et al., 2011b), critical for managing and adapting to climate change risks (Harmsworth et al., 2010; King et al., 2012). Future opportunities will depend on partnerships in business, science, research and government (high confidence; Harmsworth et al., 2010; King et al., 2010) as well as innovative technologies and new land management practices to better suit future climates and use opportunities from climate policy, especially in forestry (Carswell et al., 2002; Harmsworth, 2003; Funk and Kerr, 2007; Insley and Meade, 2008; Tait et al., 2008b; Penny and King, 2010). Māori knowledge of environmental processes and hazards (King et al., 2005; King et al., 2007) I think we have to be careful we don't paint ourselves in a methodological corner as our traditional knowledge is fragmented and a fraction of what we need to know about the world! as well as strong social-cultural networks are vital for adaptation and on-going risk management (King et al., 2008); however, choices and actions continue to be constrained by insufficient resourcing, shortages in social capital, and competing values (King et al., 2012). Competing values is a simple label hiding a complex dissonance between different Maori organisations and philosophies. Some would argue we are at war with ourselves. Combining traditional ways and knowledge with new and untried policies and strategies will be key to the long-term sustainability of climate-sensitive Māori communities, groups and activities (high confidence; Harmsworth et al., 2010; King et al., 2012).

So the emphasis is now on adaption, certainly less alarmist than previous reports (and perhaps a nod there to the difficult politics of climate change?). But the constraints on Maori adapting to massive environmental change has been irreparably altered by colonisation! While this is implicitly acknowledged (and the Australian situation is much worse; the section preceding Maori - 25..8.2.1 - presents the case for Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders).

Friday, April 04, 2014

What should be done?

Good question Gina!

The first, and somewhat glib, position should be the government fulfils its obligations as Treaty partner and accepts Maori into a decision-making role with regards to ALL government funded, influenced and driven research.

That would solve this current situation.

Tain’t gonna happen of course, not anytime soon. But they should do it.

A more realistic – if still somewhat fanciful – solution would be for iwi to invest the requisite money and support for Maori research in all its diverse glory! This would raise the spectre of iwi versus iwi authorities.

For the latter there are research centres such as the Ngai Tahu Research Centre at the University of Canterbury and the Waikato-Tainui centre at Hopuhopu.

Iwi authorities often ‘default’ to government-supported research through such organisations as the CRI’s et cetera who need Maori boxes ticked. All valid but not covering all we need. And some iwi authorities - Tainui and Ngai Tahu leading the way - have the corporate heft for considerable leverage in research.

But many iwi authorities and most iwi are much smaller and can’t be expected to have the critical mass for truly good research (let’s cut the continual rhetorical reference to ‘excellence’ and settle for above average, which is what I mean by ‘good’). I suspect most iwi would need to collaborate with their neighbours (e.g., research collectives for Taranaki, Tai Rawhiti, Te Tau Ihu, Tai Tokerau and so on). This would be tricky but regional collectives have traditional linkages and bounded research interests (e.g., ecosystems and water catchments as fundamental fields of study).

I doubt iwi are in a position to enact this in a timeline that would maintain Ngā Pae’s momentum. But they should begin to do it…

The Universities should of course better support Maori research in a manner befitting the academic culture and histories they carry. Hmmm, okay, the Universities still carry an Imperial racism but we can make a very strong business case (bear with…) by which investing in Maori students, academics, and communities brings in more students, more researchers, and more research funding.

Again, the Universities have defaulted to such programmes as Ngā Pae o te Maramatanga’s doctoral support and Manu Ao academic leadership course. Plus most struggle to fulfil their Treaty obligations and I’m not gonna hold my breath. But they should do it…

We need to acknowledge that corporate players have an important role for modern research funding and some large corporations support important research programmes. While I know of scholarships available from players such as Genesis and Meridian, outside of the primary sector (mining, fishing, and agriculture) I’m not aware of corporate dollars being invested into long-term Indigenous relationships.

And there are significant ethical issues around such relationships of course! Given the ever decreasing tax load carried by corporations, they should accept greater philanthropic roles.

Yeah right, as the billboard sez...

So funding – a key challenge particularly for the social sciences - should be an amalgamation of government, iwi, and corporate dollars. Government is down-sizing its contribution (I still think they can be shamed into putting something in place after next election). Iwi and corporations need to increase their contributions. That strings will be attached is for later and ongoing debates…

What is to follow Ngā Pae? A National institute? If so, please not Auckland. It has to be Wellington, central to Maori katoa and the home of politics, the game we’ve not played well in this current funding crisis.

But can any single organisation cover what Maori research needs? In trying to be all things to all Maori do we run the risk of superficiality? We all chafe against review by non-specialists; this is at the guts of complaints about the Royal Society process. Is it still possible to talk of a National Maori anything?

I think it is possible.

But we’re not having a true korero about this. We’ve missed the boat for inclusive Maori research for the next ten years through poorly thought out, poorly executed National Science Challenges.

Maori involvement is limited – often just a handful – and the timelines are surreal!

The next ten years is a holding pattern. We tread water. Endurance is a prerequisite to resilience.

So what should happen?
  1. Maori take a claim to the Waitangi Tribunal demanding the right to help frame research in our own country.
  2. Government provides interim funding to maintain the momentum and networks that Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga have put in place.
  3. Maori hold a series of hui to establish a hapu and iwi based research platform. Corporations are put on notice that to be socially responsible businesses they will need to support research for and by mana whenua.
  4. Universities, CRIs and polytechnics financially support Maori researchers, including postgraduates, and enable research with those Maori communities located within their regions. These communities include Nga Maata Waka/Taura here. And Ngati Kangaru (oaky, that's tricky but we should figure out a way to make it happen!).

Anyways Gina, thanks for the challenge. I'm not a decision-maker in any of this, in fact other than Stephen Joyce, I'm not sure who does make the call. Maori are reacting to this and are yet to have the power or inclination to be proactive. Hard rains gonna fall...

Presentations at the recent Ngā Pae research hui:

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Indigenous Peoples and Disasters: Opportunities and Obligations of Efficiency

I'm presenting on our research next Friday in Poneke/Wellington at the School of Economics and Finance11 April, 12.30 pm in RH1113, Level 11 Meeting Room, Rutherford House, 23 Lambton Quay, Wellington (Pipitea Campus).

Nau mai haere mai!
Simon Lambert

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