Saturday, March 5, 2022

Point of Order: We try again to get the measure of mauri and how to determine when $4.95 million of public funding has restored it

The concept of “mauri” can be mystifying but we should strive to understand it – and learn how to measure it – in an era when central and local governments are launching programmes to restore it.

Without knowing how to measure it, governments and councils – and taxpayers and ratepayers – can’t know if the public money spent on restoration projects has delivered the goods. Or restored the mauri.

Some measures of water quality are plainly the stuff of science.

The Taranaki Regional Council explains the physical and chemical measurements that are used to assess pressures on the health of rivers like this:

The measures include bacteria levels, water clarity, conductivity and acidity (pH levels), nutrient levels, dissolved oxygen levels and the amount of oxygen consumed in the breakdown of organic matter. The latter measure is known as ‘biochemical oxygen demand’ or BOD, and is low in healthy rivers.

In all, there are 22 individual measures, which the Council monitors by taking regular samples at 13 sites across the region.

But a $4.95 million project intended to significantly enhance the urban stream networks that drain into the Tūranganui estuary raised questions about the measurement of mauri.

The project was announced last month by the Gisborne District Council.

The Ministry for the Environment will grant $2.25 million for the project, called Restoring the Mauri and Ora of the Tūranganui Estuary System, and the council will contribute the balance through existing budgets.

The project – at first blush – involves the blending of science and spirituality

A press statement from the council said:

Council Chief of Strategy and Science Joanna Noble says, “We are delighted that MfE has agreed to support this project, which will use mātauranga Māori and western science to help restore the mauri and ora of the Tūranganui estuary system.”


Council partnered with the KIWA Group (tangata whenua technical reference group) to make a joint application to MfE’s Freshwater Improvement Fund (FIF) last year.

The project will be completed by the end of June 2026, which implies that within four years the mauri will have been restored to those waterways.

But how will know that it has been restored?

Let’s start by finding out what it is.

Te Aka Māori Dictionary provided this definition:

(noun) life principle, life force, vital essence, special nature, a material symbol of a life principle, source of emotions – the essential quality and vitality of a being or entity. Also used for a physical object, individual, ecosystem or social group in which this essence is located.

The website of Te Ara Taiohi, a body for youth development in New Zealand, went into it more deeply:

Mauri is the life spark or essence inherent in all living things that has been passed down from ancestors through whakapapa. Mauri affects and is affected by the surrounding environment. It is a motivating force and also encapsulates a process of change from Mauri moe, a state where potential is as yet unrealised; through Mauri oho, sparks of interest and the realisation that change is possible; to Mauri ora, an action oriented stage of striving towards full potential (Keelan, 2014; Pohatu, 2011). Mauri, along with tikanga (cultural values) drives the expression of āhuatanga, a person’s characteristics and qualities (Ware, 2009; Ware & Walsh-Tapiata, 2010) and is closely connected to identity exploration and development, and flourishing. Thriving occurs through realisation of one’s inherent strengths and the ability to stand in one’s own truth (Kerekere 2015, 2017b).

The Gisborne District Council gave its definition in response to Point of Order’s questions:

* How does Joanna Noble and/or the council define “mauri”?

We define mauri in our Tairawhiti Resource Management Plan (TRMP) as “essential life force or principle, a metaphysical quality inherent in all things, both animate and inanimate”.

Mauri is a compulsory freshwater value under the TRMP, which iwi have advocated strongly for.

All definitions are available on our website:

* What measure does she and/or the council use to determine whether the mauri of fresh water bodies (or anything else in the environment) is being maintained, degraded or enhanced?

Monitoring mauri usually involves the use of both ‘western science’ and monitoring methods derived from mātauranga Māori. Each iwi and hapū may have its own specific ways of measuring mauri. One example used in Tairāwhiti is the mauri compass. More information on this tool is available online:

 * Who does the measuring – must it be done only by Maori or can non-Maori scientists be trained to establish if mauri has been restored?

Provided the right training has been undertaken, the measuring can be undertaken by Māori and non-Māori scientists or individuals. However, engagement with mana whenua is needed to understand the whakapapa (the context and foundational relationships of people to place) and to interpret the monitoring results in terms of the state of the mauri.

To help further, KIWA chairman Ian Ruru provided this information:

Mauri defined in this context

Turanganui iwi advocated strongly that mauri be included as an RMA freshwater value in (what would eventually become) the Tairawhiti Regional Management Plan. The TRMP contains many references to mauri and its significance to tangata whenua in an RMA context. The inclusion of mauri as a compulsory freshwater value signifies its importance to the whole community as a holistic measure of the health and well-being of our waterways.

Mauri Assessment Tools

The Mauri Compass is one of a number of cultural health monitoring tools available in NZ. It was co-developed by Te Runanga o Tūranganui-a-Kiwa and Council. The collaboration was in response to an RMA wastewater consent condition to ‘improve the water quality and mauri of Tūranganui-a-Kiwa”. There are a number of examples where the tool has been used successfully in freshwater and marine environments. or contact

Matauranga Māori and Western Science

For the waterways, the Mauri Compass speaks to the concept of working collaboratively and the uniqueness of each body of knowledge. For a robust, valid and repeatable assessment, experts in both Matauranga Māori and Western Science are required. The compass is based on the idea that scientific measures alone are insufficient to define the well-being of the waterways. The voice and involvement of tangata whenua is essential.

The Ministry for the Environment previously had referred Point of Order to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPS-FM) 2020 for a definition of mauri. It uses Te Mana o te Wai (TMotW) as a key concept.

We had asked the ministry what measure it uses to determine whether the mauri of fresh water bodies (or anything else in the environment) is being maintained, degraded or enhanced.

And we asked who does the measuring – can it be done only by Māori or can non-Māori scientists be taught to do this work?

The ministry’s answer:

Regional councils will be responsible for monitoring, reporting and enforcement under the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 (NPS-FM). Regional councils must engage with iwi and hapū to understand what Te Mana o te Wai, and mauri as a component of it, means for their respective areas.

To give effect to the NPS-FM, regional councils must develop a long-term vision through discussion with communities and tangata whenua. Establishing a long-term vision for a water body means capturing the needs and aspirations of tangata whenua and the wider community in each region. The long-term vision needs to be based on historical and current pressures on local water bodies and catchments.

Perhaps one day we will learn how to measure mauri and how to restore it to polluted environments. In the meantime it looks like we must put our faith in the expertise of tribal elders.

Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton.


Terry Morrissey said...

." In the meantime it looks like we must put our faith in the expertise of tribal elders."
The day that I put faith in the tribal elders for my health is the day I start believing in Santa again, the Prime Minister and her socialist cult.
Any council that believes in this mumbo jumbo needs to start looking at employment vacancies.
Any government department that forks out $4.95 million and expects a favourable result, when an unfavourable result would mean another helping from the trough has to be from another planet.
They keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. That tells us something.

Doug Longmire said...

I have really had a gutsful of this primitive unscientific mumbo-jumbo.

DeeM said...

You really couldn't make this crap up!
Sums up NZ today for me. Woke on steroids!!

Unknown said...

I would like better quality water for my homebrew beer. Where can I purchase a Maori compass

Robert Arthur said...

These vague undefinable words with interpretations that can be and are adapted by maori to suit as they see fit, are creeping into all manner of policy documents. The Auckland Draft Regional Parks Management Plan is riddled with this and a host of other vagaries. Shrewdly and artfully no glossary with fixed definitions is given so the scope for future exploitation is unlimited. Even mana whenua is hopelessly vague. It can be used as representative maori directly descended from the original tribes of the area, to all maori everywhere. Wording aimed at the former can legitimately be stretched to justify organised influential maori activists everywhere horning in.

Kiwialan said...

Total racist crap. No written language, no wheel, stone age tools, inter tribal warfare, slavery, cannibalism.... where does it stop? A whole multi cultural country held to ransom by the greedy snouts in the trough racist minority who falsely claim to be indigenous. When will the majority have the guts to say enough? Kiwialan.

Unknown said...

Hear Hear Kiwiallen

Barend Vlaardingerbroek said...

I clicked on the mauricompass link and my computer said 'Dangerous website blocked'. Looks like there is such a thing as mauri after all and it's a nasty spook that has learned how to use modern ICT. We're all doomed!