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Te Nohonga Kaitiaki guidelines define a framework for engagement 

Respecting kaitiaki interests over taonga demonstrates a commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Until now, there has been little guidance to ensure that taonga (any living thing, or their derivatives, of value to Māori) are being studied in a way that upholds Te Tiriti o Waitangi. 

A Genomics Aotearoa project has developed culturally informed ethical guidelines to connect Māori concepts and expectations of kaitiakitanga to the context of genomics. These guidelines incorporate Vision Mātauranga and support greater benefit sharing.

What we have done

All research involving genetic resources for the purposes of conservation and ecology within Aotearoa is of value and interest to kaitiaki. 

Te Nohonga guidelines (with background)

Genomics Aotearoa researchers recognised the need for a comprehensive framework for research positioned at the intersection of genomics, innovation, and Te Ao Māori. 

Consultation to develop the framework involved two rounds of nationwide hui, presentations and wānanga attended by science and community representatives, government departments and Crown entities, together with submissions from people involved in the consultation. 

The outcomes from this engagement evolved into Te Nohonga Kaitiaki, which contains several important elements: 

  • An Engagement Framework, which illustrates considerations for effective engagement at different levels of a project, from inception to completion. 
  • Guiding Principles, which set waypoints to frame the thinking around genomic research. 
  • Operating Principles, which reflect the nature and relationship whānau, hapū and iwi hold with their respective taonga. The Operating Principles provide clarity around how relationships with taonga also have relationships with people and place. 
  • An Engagement Checklist provides questions to inform the development of robust relationships with Māori. An important aspect of conducting genomic research that involves taonga is the need to engage with the right people in the design phase. 
Te Nohonga Kaitiaki
The results

All researchers working in Aotearoa can now access a framework that guides effective engagement with Māori across three responsiveness levels – project, organisation, and systems. 

Since completion the guidelines have been shared with the science research community around Aotearoa and are used in undergraduate and graduate teaching at the University of Otago. More than 1,000 printed copies of the guidelines have been distributed amongst key institutions. 

Discussions have also started around the potential transferability of the guidelines to other academic fields, such as archaeology. The Australian Institute of Marine Science has shown interest in how the guidelines provide an example of ways to support their work with Indigenous peoples. The guidelines were well-received by Plant & Food Research at a wānanga on research on taonga. Feedback on the guidelines has been positive. 

Genomics Aotearoa now requires all new projects in the environmental research space to consult the Engagement Checklist at a minimum during their design phase.

Read more about Te Nohonga Kaitiaki here