Melanie is an Indigenous environmental sociologist, and the Māori Research Manager – Kaiārahi for the Bio-Protection Research Centre (a Centre of Research Excellence) based at Lincoln University.
She is also the Māori Manager for New Zealand’s Biological Heritage National Science Challenge, a founding member of Te Tira Whakamātaki; the Māori Biosecurity Network and a project leader and researcher in a number of National Science Challenge, Tertiary Education Commission and Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment programmes including ‘Mātauranga Māori characterisation of NZ’s biodiversity,’ ‘Protecting NZ’s primary sector from plant pests: a toolkit for the urban battlefield,’ and ‘Protecting New Zealand from extreme fire.’
Since 2011 Melanie has been funded through various research institutes and government agencies to examine disaster risk reduction (DRR) and the effects of the Canterbury earthquakes on Māori communities, work that she believes links closely to the biosecurity sector. Melanie worked for Te Runanga o Ngāi Tahu and its education subsidiary Te Tapuae o Rehua from 2001-2008.
Our main question is ‘do hapū and Iwi views and practices provide an alternative paradigm to New Zealand’s biosecurity system to better protect our taonga species?
Māori have developed practices and methods such as the use of ritenga (customs, laws, and protocols) and whakapapa (species assemblages within a holistic ecosystem paradigm) to mitigate risks and threats to both endemic biodiversity and primary production systems from pests, weeds and pathogens. However, the 21st century has seen a rapid increase in species introductions to New Zealand, with dramatic consequences for both Māori livelihoods and cultural integrity.