Restoring the mauri of coastal dune lake ecosystems : the case study of Lake Waiorongomai, Ōtaki, Aotearoa/New Zealand : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Resource and Environmental Planning, at Massey University, Palmerston North, Aotearoa/New Zealand
This doctoral thesis documents and analyses a six-year, hapū-led, iwi-and
community-supported, kaupapa-Māori-based (Māori-cultural-values-based) project that
resulted in the transformative change of a dune lake ecosystem (which included people
i.e., a whānau Māori ecosystem).
Lake Waiorongomai, just north of Ōtaki, is a culturally-significant ancestral landscape
and wāhi tapu (sacred site) for local whānau (extended families), hapū (sub-tribes) and
iwi (tribes). The mana (prestige), mauri (life force) and ecological wellbeing of this
wāhi tapu was diminished as a result of forest clearance, hydrological modification of
the lake catchment, and the effects of pastoral farming activities. Attempts over the last
three decades to bring Māori land owners and hapū members together to re-instate the
mana and mauri of the dune lake ecosystem met with limited success. This thesis
documents and seeks to better understand: (i) the conditions that gave rise to a
successful restoration project; and (ii) the factors that empowered this hapū-led project.
The study shows that conditions that contributed to a successful project involved: (i)
collective land owner, local hapū and iwi support; (ii) a kaupapa Māori approach; (iii)
project activities guided by the expression of rangatiratanga (sovereignty) and the
contributions of a kaitiaki team who were appointed by hapū members; and (iv) the
engagement of a kaupapa Māori researcher to support the hapū initiative and their
Transformative change in this case study was change that had positive effects on
physical, cultural, social, psychological and spiritual wellbeing. In the Lake
Waiorongomai restoration project, the outcomes that had positive effects for the whānau Māori ecosystem include, but are not limited to: (i) fencing the lake with a 50m riparian
margin; (ii) fencing the Waiorongomai Stream with a 10m riparian margin; (iii)
community involvement in planting more than 3000 native plants, translocating over
1000 harakeke (swamp flax), and trapping over 100 pests (including stoats and ferrets);
and (iv) reconnection of whānau and hapū members to the lake, through regular
wānanga and ongoing restoration activities such as winter planting days. The habitat
within the lake and surrounding wetlands provided opportunities to observe amongst
other things threatened species such as the tiny button daisy, raoriki (swamp buttercup),
fennel-leaved pond weed, matuku (bittern), kotuku ngutupapa (royal spoonbill), kotuku
(white heron), parera (grey ducks), weweia (dab chicks) and pūweto (spotless crake).
The improvement in the wellbeing of two species, inanga (whitebait) and watercress,
over the course of the study is of particular note, since these species hold customary
value for whānau and hapū.
A central focus of this research is the relationship that ecological wellbeing and whānau,
hapū, iwi wellbeing are inextricably linked. In summary, this hapū-led, community
supported project took initial, confident steps in reclaiming, reframing and re-instating
the mana and mauri of this whānau Māori ecosystem.
This thesis argues that transformative changes were generated by empowering factors
that were closely linked with: (i) the creation of a project space that allowed the free
expression of kaupapa and tikanga (customs) in a socially and culturally mediated
journey; (ii) whānau and hapū members’ expressions of kaupapa and tikanga that
enhanced the success of this project; (iii) contributions of iwi members, councils and the
wider community; (iv) the sharing and developing of mātauranga (knowledge)
including through the involvement of learning institutes (e.g. whare wānanga, kura
kaupapa, kōhanga reo and university students); and (v) a synthesis of Māori and Western restoration and research methods (including ecological monitoring). These
empowering factors assisted in affirming to local hapū members that their expressions
of kaupapa and tikanga were crucial in generating initial lake ecosystem wellbeing
improvements including the enhancement of mauri.
Two key lessons can be drawn from the role of these various factors in transformative
change. First, no individual contribution was enough to ensure the success of the
restoration. However, when a safe kaupapa and tikanga space was created for the
inclusion of all contributors, the total effect was more than the sum of the individual
parts (i.e., a synergistic outcome resulted). Second, the results indicate that it is highly
unlikely that a Western methodological approach on its own would have been as
successful in achieving a project outcome of this kind. A comparison of the key
characteristics of kaupapa Māori and action research showed that a kaupapa Māori
research methodology was the most appropriate for this case study. As such, this thesis
may enhance current action research theory and method by showing how it could be
responsive to cultural values, knowledge, customs and language in a real-world, wicked
problem context of this kind.
In documenting and exploring the various conditions and factors that made this
restoration project possible, this thesis provides environmental planners and policy
makers a real-world window into how transformative and progressive communityecosystem
outcomes can be achieved in a Māori cultural context through the use of a
kaupapa Māori approach.
The following Figures have been removed for copyright reasons but may be accessed via their sources listed in the bibliography (page numbers in the captions):
1.2.1 (p.13); 2.2.1 (p.48); 4.2.3 (p.166); 4.2.4 (p.168); 4.3.1 (p.184); 4.3.4 (p.191); 4.3.5 (p.194); 4.3.6 (p.198); 4.3.7 (p.203); 4.3.8 (p.205); 4.3.9 (p.208); 6.0.1 (p.326); & 6.3.11 (p.392).