"If we look after the land, the land will look after us"
Te Ohu Mō Papatūānuku literally means a group of people working together for the wellness of
Papatūānuku. Woven together by Ngāti Awa researchers, with scientists and kaitiaki we have
created a "productive symbiosis between Indigenous and Scientific knowledges that serve our shared
goals of sustainability for land and culture". For Māori, Indigenous knowledge finds expression in the
creation story of Ranginui and Papatūānuku, from whom all Māori descend. For more info see the Teara Online Encyclopedia.
Papatūānuku is the land. Papatūānuku is both a resource, and a more-than-human relation. As a
resource, the land enables physical sustainability. This is the role of our scientists when helping
Papatūānuku become contaminant-free – we are healing the land. As a more-than-human relation,
the land enables spiritual sustainability. This is the role of our kaitiaki when making sure we are at all
times spiritually connected to the land – the land is healing us.
Healing is a function of science and culture working together. Science provides technology and
strategies that target exposure pathways and risk. Whakapapa relationships support delivery and
communication of science to respond to the concerns people have for contaminated land.
This complementary working relationship was initially created in respectful recognition of the very
sacred land of one site in particular – Opihi Whanaungakore. This land is of extreme cultural
importance to tangata whenua.
Working together in this project has achieved a number of unexpected outcomes, including:
Papatūānuku and Ranginui being brought back into our lives in a meaningful way
Scientists welcoming the experience of cultural diversity ‘in the field’
Confirmation of the crucial role kaitiaki hold in modern society
Scientists and kaitiaki ‘modelling’ an effective and efficient collaboration that has national
and international application