A Taiao wānanga was hosted in April 2023 by Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki at Umupuia marae, supported by our partners Revive Our Gulf. This created an opportunity for te whānau whānui o Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki to noho at the marae together, while also discovering more about our relationship with te taiao, (re)connecting with each other and focusing on making our natural environment a longlasting and healthy taonga for our mokopuna.

The wānanga began with a presentation from Te Kahuratai Moko-Painting (Ngāti Manu, Te Popoto, Ngāpuhi) who shared his PhD rangahau/research on maramataka in the eastern part of Te Tai Tokerau, while also demonstrating the traditional ways of navigation using your hand as a measurement tool for degrees between stars. When holding your hand in front of your face as far as you comfortably can, the pinky finger indicates 1 degree, the thumb indicates 2 degrees, the first three fingers side-by-side indicates 5 degrees, a clenched fist indicates 10 degrees, the distance between the tip of your first finger to the tip of your pinky finger indicates 15 degrees and the distance between the little finger to thumb indicates 25 degrees. Everyone’s hands are slightly different, so practice with your own hand measurements using the Big Dipper, use this video for help to calibrate your own hand. You can also use two hands to get different measurement pairings such as 12 degrees (a thumb and a clenched fist).

Te Kahuratai also explained how in Te Tai Tokerau they can tell the marama/moon phase through looking at the positioning of Tane.

Isabella Penrose later shared her experience as a Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki rangatahi scientist, highlighting her internship at the Leigh Marine Laboratories and experience at the Sustainable Seas Symposium. Isabella shared the methods she learnt from Al Alder which are being used to study ongoing kūtai (green-lipped mussel, Perna canaliculus) reef restoration, and also discussed the importance of iwi being involved with restoration projects in accordance with Te Tiriti o Waitangi as an expression of contemporary kaitiakitanga.

The wānanga attendees spent time with Frank Haimona and the Mātātoa tamariki who shared how they are learning about environmental management through the lens of mātauranga. Mātātoa kura tamariki don’t learn by the standard Gregorian calendar but instead follow maramataka and āhuarangi.

On day two of the wānanga, Shane Kelly from Coast and Catchment explained how sediment in Tīkapa Moana isn’t all bad; in fact, there are many organisms that reside in sedimented environments such as crabs and scallops. Shane also gave an overview of the damaging effects that kauri farming had on Tīkapa Moana.

He was followed by Al Alder from the Mussel Reef Restoration Trust who explained the details of kūtai restoration projects and went into detail about some of the ecosystem services that kūtai reefs provide. Through an interactive demonstration he showcased the filter-feeding ability of kūtai.

The taiao focused wānanga was a great environment for whakawhanaungatangata, with knowledge being shared across many different industries and age groups, while also demonstrating that the building of kūtai beds symbolises more than just ecological restoration; it goes hand in hand with revitalisation of our community bonds and collective strength.