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Te Nohonga Kaitiaki

Te Nohonga Kaitiaki, which generally translates to 'the seat of responsibility', reflects the importance of the role of traditional guardians and institutional stewards in the context of genomic research and taonga species.

Part of Genomics Aotearoa's programme of work is compiling genomic information for conservation and improved breeding in primary production. Some of these genomes belong to taonga species - native species that are of particular importance to Māori. Māori are the kaitiaki or guardians of taonga; therefore research practices of genomic researchers must recognise Māori rights and interests in these species. 

A Genomics Aotearoa project has been developing 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.

Collaboration and partnership with Māori communities have been crucial for the project team to develop a preliminary set of guidelines for genomic research with taonga species. Feedback from engagement with Māori and research communities across New Zealand, including workshops, presentations and consultation with organisations and wānanga, are being incorporated into these draft guidelines.

The draft guidelines describe the cultural foundations that inform relationships with taonga species, and address community needs at project, organisational and systems levels. This introduces guiding and operating principles, outlines responsibilities and mechanisms to support kaitiakitanga, and proposes an engagement framework including advice on who to engage with and an engagement checklist.


  • Provide guidelines for working with Taonga species
  • Develop pathways that benefit Māori through genomic work on Taonga species
  • Develop pathways for better engagement with Māori and other communities
  • Improved capability and world leadership in this area

Indigenous genomics - two case studies


  • Associate Professor Maui Hudson (University of Waikato) – lead researcher
  • Professor Chris Battershill (University of Waikato)
  • Dr Jason Mika (Massey University)
  • Dr Phil Wilcox (University of Otago)
  • Dr Matt Stott (University of Canterbury)
  • Robert Brooks (Independent Researcher)
  • Ari Thompson (University of Waikato)
  • Tuti Nikora (University of Waikato)
  • Lisa Warbrick (Massey University)
  • Associate Professor Patrick Biggs (Massey University) 


Entwined processes: Rescripting consent and strengthening governance in genomics research with Indigenous communities
N Garrison, SR Carroll, M Hudson
Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics, 48(1), 2020,

Rights, interests and expectations: Indigenous perspectives on unrestricted access to genomic data
M Hudson et al.
Nature Reviews Genetics, 21, 377–384, 2020,

Maui Hudson, blog on Indigenous perspectives on unrestricted access to genomic data

Indigenous genomic databases: Pragmatic considerations and cultural contexts
NR Caron, M Chongo, M Hudson, L Arbour, WW Wasserman, S Robertson, S Correard, P Wilcox
Frontiers in Public Health, 8, 111, 2020,

Related work

Guidelines for genomic research with Māori