How can the synthesis of kaitiakitanga and green polymer science enhance and protect the mauri of water in Aotearoa?

How can innovative polymer technologies protect and improve the mauri, wairua and kaitiakitanga of water in rural Māori communities?

This project will conduct research into the impacts from septic tank seepage. This problem is both out-of-sight and out-of-mind but has a major impact in rural and coastal locations where traditionally, Māori have located their mahinga kai, sourced kai moana and accessed fresh water.

Our project is a research collaboration between Patuharakeke and Te Parawhau whānau living on Takahiwai papakainga, non-Māori home owners at Takahiwai and research leaders from the University of Auckland and AUT. The team includes a social anthropologist, an ecologist, a polymer chemist, and two Māori community researchers who live in Takahiwai.

We will use cutting edge green polymer filtration science to prevent (or at least reduce) septic tank discharge at Takahiwai. This will offer solutions to human health issues associated with fresh water contamination from faecal contaminants such as cryptosporidium, and toxic algae and cyanobacteria.

It is our hypothesis that the application of new polymer technology will directly improve water quality and thereby protect and improve the mauri of local waterways. Water from inland waterways eventually ends up in and has an impact upon estuaries, harbours and marine environments. Tangata whenua at Takahiwai who take their kaitiaki obligation seriously are very concerned by the compromised state of coastal taonga (natural resources including wetlands, streams and mangroves) in their rohe.

This project offers an inexpensive and sustainable alternate method to maintain septic tank systems in rural Māori communities.

Project commenced:

Research Lead(s) and Team

Waikato-Ngāti Maniapoto
Senior Research Fellow
James Henare Māori Research Centre

Marama holds a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Auckland. She is a Senior Research Fellow and Acting Director at the James Henare Māori Research Centre. Marama also advises on elderly health projects in the School of Population Health.