What does biosecurity mean to Māori?

26 January 2022

What does biosecurity mean to Māori?

What does biosecurity mean to Māori?

Webinar facilitated by Te Tira Whakamātaki (TTW), in collaboration with Biosecurity New Zealand

7pm, Tuesday 7th December


Held on Zoom and livestreamed to Facebook, this was the first in a series of webinars with a symposium to be held in 2022.

Te Tira Whakamātaki has established itself as a leading Māori voice on issues of biosecurity, biodiversity and mātauranga-based science in a relatively short period of time. Well-connected and with an impressive network of passionate Māori members spanning broad areas of expertise, TTW provides evidence-based analysis for communities as well as for local and national organisations.

Facilitated by Māori pest management expert Tame Malcolm


Panel and co-founders of TTW:


Melanie Mark-Shadbolt

(Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa, Ngāti Porou, Te Arawa, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Tuwharetoa, Te Atiawa, Mackintosh and Gunn)

Deputy Ministry Secretary Tumatakōkiri at the Ministry for the Environment

Tumu Whakarae and Chief Executive Officer, Te Tira Whakamātaki


Dr Amanda Black

(Tūhoe, Whakatōhea and Whānau-ā-Apanui)

Professor and Co-director of Bioprotection Aotearoa at Lincoln University,

Rutherford Discovery Fellow and co-founder and Trustee of Te Tira Whakamātaki.


Dr Nick Waipara


Scientist and Researcher for Plant and Food Research, Co-founder and Trustee of Te Tira Whakamātaki.


The introduction covered how TTW was formed. The inception of TTW started when Melanie, Nick and Amanda were consistently asked to give a Māori perspective on biosecurity (especially regarding Kauri Dieback).  Feeling that Māori needed their own voice in the biosecurity and biodiversity space, they established the Māori biosecurity network, which was gifted the name Te Tira Whakamātaki, meaning the watchful ones.  To start this process, they first visited iwi all over Aotearoa to gain their perspectives on what biosecurity is and what should be done in the biosecurity space.


In 2017, a hui in Auckland determined that TTW would be a hapu-based organisation. They wanted to authentically represent Māori, and not seen as an intermediary between Māori and the Crown or other organisations. Their key intention was to ensure that whānau had their voice heard when it came to influencing policy. This was pivotal to Māori on all levels.


Being from a science background, Amanda highlighted that working in the biosecurity space can be very pakeha-based, with work normally performed in silos. When TTW visited Iwi, they started to understand how complex biosecurity is and how disconnected Māori were.  The western view had prioritised biosecurity policy, not necessarily considering the position of Māori.


Also discussed were the barriers to Māori being included in biosecurity conversations – the largest of which is the Biosecurity Act itself.  The challenge being the way it is framed; not including automatic rights for Māori. An example of this in action was when Potatoes NZ had reached out to a Māori group to be included in the response to an incursion, but were actively blocked by the rest of the system. Another example of this was GIA only offering Māori observer status. Other barriers discussed included the limitation on the allocation of resourcing for Māori.


Nick Waipara emphasised the importance of mātauranga Māori (knowledge) in looking at a partnership approach to biosecurity management.  Nick used the example of the response to kauri dieback disease.


When asked about how industry could incorporate mātauranga Māori into biosecurity practices, Amanda highlighted the importance of Māori being included in a meaningful way, and for those keen to involve Māori, to do so without appropriation – to invite Māori to the table as a partner in the conversations, not just as a token gesture.  Placing a few te reo Māori words in reports or appropriating cultural elements will not aid the partnership process.  Amanda says Te Tiriti o Waitangi is central to the philosophy of working together so, encourages all to make a space for Māori and invite them in.


Tame wrapped up the session by inviting the group to send in suggestions for topics of interest for the upcoming webinars.