Te Reo o Te Repo

Listening to the Voice of the Wetlands through integrative consideration.

Research goal: To enhance and protect cultural wetland values to share with tangata whenua throughout Aotearoa New Zealand and help other members of the public understand the cultural priorities for wetland restoration.

Te Reo o Te Repo is the first wetland handbook of its kind that acknowledges the cultural significance of repo (wetlands) for Māori and showcases various restoration efforts underway by whanau Māori throughout Aotearoa New Zealand. This publication is a result of a collaboration between Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research and Waikato-Tainui (tangata whenua of the Waikato region), strengthening a working relationship since 2010.

In the last 150 years, more than 90% of repo in Aotearoa have been destroyed, and Māori have become increasingly concerned about the mauri (life force) of this culturally significant ecosystem. The cultural wetland handbook responds to specific needs identified by Māori in developing culturally focused research projects and collating best practice restoration techniques to increase the health and well-being of repo in their rohe (region).

The handbook includes processess to facilitate renewed and vibrant connections between whānau and their repo, understanding of cultural resources, and learnings from case studies on repo restoration, cultural indicators, and monitoring – all led by or in collaboration with tangata whenua.

See the Te Haerenga Pāhekoheko guide for more details.

Kaitiaki (tribal guardians) and scientists learning together towards a common wetland restoration goal.

A Kaupapa Māori Approach for Integration and Transdisciplinary Research

Mana Whakahaere

Environmental restoration work in Aotearoa requires the involvement of tangata whenua whose culture and identity come from the whenua (land). Before developing any restorative processes, it is important to develop a strong, trusting relationship with whānau Māori. The Kapu Tī approach (Chapter 1), for example, allows a space where whānau Māori and researchers (Māori and non-Māori) begin to weave the relationships and create a shared space to gain mutual trust for collaboration. This approach seeks to enable whānau to be involved in the decision-making process and have an active role throughout the project, as opposed to a consultation or tick-the-box approach.

Whakamāramatia ngā Tikanga

A key consideration is that tangata whenua and the wider local community must be informed about proposed actions for wetland restoration. Scientists and researchers should show a commitment to listen to and work with tangata whenua to find a path towards shared outcomes. In this publication, for example, it is crucial to gain mana whenua perspectives on herbicide use in repo restoration that consider Te Ao Māori whakaaro and work to maintain mutual respect throughout the knowledge-sharing process (Chapters 6.1, 6.2, 6.3). At this point, we also discuss how information is disseminated, making sure it is easy to read for whānau, but is also informative enough for the scientific community to benefit from.

Whakamāramtia ngā Huānga

Through deep discussion with mana whenua in the Kapu Tī phase, researchers were able to assess those priority issues about which whānau Māori were concerned and work with them to determine what objectives they would like to see come to fruition. Also discussed are the goals of the projects, where shared outcomes may be determined, and appropriate scientific methods can be utilized. The Ake Ake model (Chapter 2) is an example where whānau Māori map out the past, present, and future, then, based on the aspirations of the community, researchers can work with whānau to establish their desired goals and objectives, and plan suitably for the future

Whakamāramatia ngā Mahi

From the beginning of the Kapu Tī phase (Mana whakahaere), researchers and whānau worked together to create processes that are both beneficial to and respectful of Mātauranga Māori. The use of scientific methods at this stage emphasises actions of working together, which enables whānau to learn more about scientific methods (such as experimental designs, data collection and analysis, monitoring frameworks), where researchers and scientists may display their expertise. Inclusive research activities also include building capability for whānau in the field ‘doing the mahi’, where whānau, from rangatahi (youth) to kaumātua (elders), are in the field alongside the project team, participating in research activities, and sharing space where mātauranga Māori and western science may coincide interchangeably (Chapters 4.1, 4.3, 5.2).


Ecosystem revitalization, when drawn from a mātauranga Māori perspective about place and identity, relies on a promise for future well-being (this is also suggested in the Ake Ake model (Chapter 2). Mātauranga Māori and western science working together help bridge gaps in current knowledge, distil research priorities, and provide room for integrative research practice. In repo restoration, for example, whakapapa as a component of Mātauranga Māori is useful for identifying values associated with place, but scientific methods for measuring water quality and biodiversity are also valuable tools for thorough analysis of the situation and require mutual understanding to be fully beneficial (Chapter 7, 7.1, 7.2).


Te Reo o Te Repo is Māori-led, with strong Māori community engagement at all levels throughout the research process. Tangata whenua heavily influence the research design, participate in fieldwork, and successfully build their own capacity and ability to continue repo restoration work post-project. These kairangahau and scientists have made great efforts to establish relationships at all levels of Māori social organisation, while keeping Mātauranga Māori and the aspirations of the local communities at the forefront. Western science tools have been utilized to gather information that benefits the scientific community (by providing robust scientific results and recommendations) and whānau Māori. Te Reo o Te Repo, therefore, fits comfortably within integrative kaupapa Māori research.

Publication: Taura Y, van Schravendijk-Goodman C, Clarkson B eds 2017. Te reo o te repo – the voice of the wetland: connections, understandings and learnings for the restoration of our wetlands. Hamilton, New Zealand: Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research and Waikato Raupatu River Trust. 201 p.

Portfolio: Plant Biodiversity & Biosecurity within Ecosystem Resilience

Project: SSIF Resilient Wetlands Project

Project Manager: Dr Beverley Clarkson, plant ecologist

Project Leader: Yvonne Taura, kairangahau Māori