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Nā tō rourou, nā taku rourou: Sharing the benefits of genomics

Nā tō rourou, nā taku rourou aims to better understand the genomic basis of productivity traits of high-value marine species and ensure the ownership of this research is assigned to the right people.

Many initiatives propose to sequence the genome of all species on earth. In some cases, these initiatives are not sensitive to the Wai 262 Te Tiriti o Waitangi claim or Convention on Biological Diversity and Nagoya Protocol implications. This project establishes a model pipeline for collaboration among Māori organisations and research institutions, with ownership and governance of genomic data by Māori, using exemplar datasets to test the model.

No To Rourou-mussels

This work programme focusses on how the commercial benefits of genomic work can be vested long-term in the kaitiaki of the original sample. In an increasingly globalised world, where genomic sequencing is becoming more routine, we run the danger of losing control of the whakapapa of our taonga.

Wakatū Incorporation’s strategy of cataloguing, characterising, and developing a deep understanding of the endemic species of Te Tau Ihu is the perfect vehicle for testing this Māori-centred model for genomic work. The project will sequence the genomes of kopakopa (the ribbed mussel Aulacomya atra maoriana) and karengo (the seaweed Porphyra sp.), marine species of significant interest to Wakatū and the iwi of Te Tau Ihu. Genomes of previously identified individuals with useful traits related to growth rate, adult condition and divergent phenotype will then be re-sequenced, followed by genotype imputation when necessary. The project will generate high density linkage maps, relationship matrices, gene predictions, and other useful resources for breeding and production pipelines.

The project team will use the project outputs to test linking genomic data to the rohe from where it originated and consider how the long-term benefits of this work can be tied to mana whenua. The project will prove how genomic information can be gathered, used, and safeguarded by indigenous organisations to drive forward their aspirations. The outputs of genomic sequencing will extend on Wakatū’s existing benefit sharing programmes.

The benefits of this genomics-led approach will be taken back to the community through the Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka-a-Māui fisheries forum and other avenues, in line with Wakatū’s ongoing commitments in benefit sharing and education.


  • A new model for access and benefit sharing for Māori and research organisations.
  • Rangatahi trained in novel skills, both in commercial aquaculture and in genetic sequencing technologies.
  • Opportunities for both education and employment for Rangatahi.
  • Direct commercial benefit to Wakatū Incorporation and its constituent whānau.
  • Principles for genetic characterisation of marine organisms, and information that can be used for “blue sky” science (with the consent of Wakatū).


  • Andy Elliot (Wakatū Incorporation) - Co-lead researcher
  • Aroha Mead (Wakatū Incorporation) - Co-lead researcher
  • Charles Eason (Wakatū Incorporation) - Co-lead researcher
  • Jackie Stephens (Wakatū Incorporation) - Co-lead researcher
  • Nathan Kenny (University of Otago) - Co-lead researcher