Ko Tāngonge Te Wai: Indigenous and Technical Data Come Together in Restoration Efforts


In Aotearoa New Zealand, Māori aspirations around land and water conflict with settler interests. As indigenous people, Māori struggle to enact agency over resources, despite Treaty (Treaty of Waitangi/Te Tiriti o Waitangi is an 1840 agreement between Maori and the crown) settlement processes returning some lands. Returns are complex since changes wrought by dispossession may be extreme, requiring multiple stakeholder engagements. Tāngonge, a heavily modified wetland, in northern Aotearoa New Zealand has been the subject of iwi (tribe or tribes) claims since the 1890s. Reparation processes have returned significant areas surrounding Tāngonge to key iwi, Te Rarawa and Ngāi Takoto, who formed the Tāngonge Restoration Group to plan management and restoration. The vision of the iwi is to restore Tangonge as a wetland to rekindle usage by manawhenua (people with demonstrated authority and tribal links to the area in question) and local communities. However, perceived Māori privilege, distrust in Māori praxis and fear of alienation of stakeholders mean the situation presents challenges as well as opportunities. Understanding that various parties view knowledge in particular ways, the Restoration Group sought to juxtapose technical data and manawhenua knowledge about Tāngonge. Hydrology findings and local aspirations were aligned to produce ideas for actions that encompassed the broad concerns. This integration of knowledge provides strategic steps for working with administrative authorities who have historical and ongoing interests.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    Act passed aiming, among other things, to curb traditional Maori healing practitioners.

  2. 2.

    A quasi-legal judicial body set up in 1975 to hear grievances and make recommendations.

  3. 3.

    Freshwater crayfish.

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    Subtribe or sub-tribes.

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    Tribes of the Far North region.


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The Tāngonge restoration working group acknowledge and thank all those who have contributed in some way to this long-term project and look forward to your ongoing support throughout the coming decades; whānau, hapū, iwi, marae, local agencies and schools, the James Henare Māori Research Centre, the Health Research Council of New Zealand, Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga Māori Centre of Research Excellence, and Te Wai Māori Trustee. Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou katoa.

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Correspondence to Wendy Henwood.

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Henwood, W., Moewaka Barnes, H., Brockbank, T. et al. Ko Tāngonge Te Wai: Indigenous and Technical Data Come Together in Restoration Efforts. EcoHealth 13, 623–632 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10393-016-1170-4

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  • Maori
  • Indigenous knowledge
  • Water
  • Colonisation
  • Treaty settlement
  • Restoration