, Volume 90, Issue 4, pp 385-409
Date: 18 Apr 2008

Māori environmental knowledge of local weather and climate change in Aotearoa – New Zealand

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Abstract

The ability of Māori to understand, record and forecast weather and climate has been an important factor in successfully responding to past weather and climatic change in New Zealand. Through interacting with local environments over the centuries Māori have developed a wealth of environmental knowledge, with the lessons learnt having been incorporated into traditional and modern practices of agriculture, fishing, medicine, education and conservation. In partnership with the tribal group Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, NIWA’s Māori Research and Development Unit (Te Kuwaha o Taihoro Nukurangi) have initiated a pilot project to identify and document Māori environmental knowledge (MEK) of weather and climate in New Zealand. Using a Kaupapa Māori based research approach and semi-directive interviewing, an intimate understanding of local weather and climate was demonstrated by elders from Te Whānau-ā-Apanui. This knowledge includes the use of a vast indigenous nomenclature for local weather and climate phenomenon, the oral recording of weather and climate based events and trends, and the identification of environmental indicators to forecast weather and climate. Learning from this knowledge provides an opportunity to understand what has helped Māori adapt to weather and climate variability in the past. It also provides clues on how to enhance present day Māori and western scientific understanding of local weather and climate in New Zealand.