Pacific Scoop

Ngāti Kuri Lead New Research Programme With Voyage To Rangitāhua 20 Years On From Kaumātua

Press Release – Auckland Museum

On Thursday 18 November 2001 Kaumtua of Ngti Kuri journeyed across the ocean back to their home islands of Rangithua to honour their ongoing history of return voyaging and recognise their occupation. It is no coincidence that Expedition …

On Thursday 18 November 2001 Kaumātua of Ngāti Kuri journeyed across the ocean back to their home islands of Rangitāhua to honour their ongoing history of return voyaging and recognise their occupation. It is no coincidence that ‘Expedition Rangatahi’ voyages from Aotearoa to Rangitāhua (The Kermadec Islands) are happening 20 years to the day.

Sheridan Waitai, Co-Director of the new research programme Te Mana o Rangitāhua says, “the voyage symbolises the intergenerational link and the ongoing occupation of Ngāti Kuri. It is a voyage of re-affirmation and continuing on with the work set all those years ago.”

“Uncle Ben Waitai said to me, you have an appointment, you are called to purpose and it is no accident. All of Ngāti Kuri are called and it is to that island,” continues Sheridan.

Kaumātua created space for their next generation of researchers, kaitiaki and mana whenua when on Monday 1 November 2021, voyaging began once again for Ngāti Kuri researchers, scientists and kaitiaki and they reflected on the sacrifices and leadership of those before them.

Ten Ngāti Kuri descendants successfully charted their first orientation expedition to Rangitāhua (Raoul). There they spent four days on the island, before returning across the ocean for three days via private vessel.

“The expedition heralds a refreshed commitment as researchers and as iwi and mokopuna to the island with a focus on the biodiversity and ecosystems in and around Rangitāhua. We are placing emphasis on mātauranga-ā-iwi and translating the resulting research evidence into tangible tools for iwi-led management and conservation leadership,” says Expedition and Science Lead Tammy Tauroa.

Tammy Tauroa said, “the first part of the expedition voyage for Ngāti Kuri was intended as the first view of research requirements for island-based work, and first glance of health and safety as well as island facility orientation to prepare for the next five years.”

Expedition Rangatahi symbolises the binding and weaving of various skills, research and practical land-based kaitiakitanga into one single vision for the island and people of Ngāti Kuri. The expedition led first by mana whenua, is followed by leading scientist and kaitiaki of the iwi exploring oceanography and marine based science activities which is currently still underway in and around Rangitāhua. “It is special that today, of all days we have our people in our islands presence to give thanks, and bring new hope and understanding to what our islandscape needs for thrivability” says Sheridan.

Te Mana o Rangitāhua, is a five-year Ministry of Business, Innovation, Employment (MBIE) Endeavour-funded research programme led by Ngāti Kuri in partnership with Auckland Museum. Additional partners include; Ngā Wai ā te Tūī (Unitec), University of Auckland, Massey University, NIWA, and Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research.

Rangitāhua, halfway between mainland Aotearoa and Tonga, is an internationally significant nature reserve and Aotearoa’s largest marine reserve. It is scientifically identified as one of only four pristine marine ecosystems on Earth that is fully protected, and as a result contains a fully functional ecosystem.

This ecosystem includes a haven for seabirds, a staging post for humpback whales heading from the tropics to feeding grounds in Antarctica that remain unknown and an underwater habitat, unique in the world, that supports fish life not seen anywhere else and sharks in abundance.

Voyages taking place in 2021 are in partnership with the Inkfish Project who are generously supporting the vessel charter and who have supported to manage a stringent and highly complex COVID response plan to mitigate all risks throughout the voyages. The full expedition commenced on Monday 1 November 2021 and is complete on final return of scientists in December.

The Inkfish Project’s Annika Andresen says, “The Inkfish Project is pleased to support the partnership between Ngāti Kuri, Mana Whenua of Rangitāhua, and Auckland Museum. This programme reflects both the cultural and scientific strengths of Aotearoa New Zealand.”

Ngāti Kuri and Auckland War Memorial Museum have built a strong relationships over the last five years and together through Te Mana o Rangitāhua, will ensure Rangitāhua will be understood as a site of genealogical, biological and environmental significance to Ngāti Kuri, Aotearoa and the Southwest Pacific, transforming Aotearoa’s environmental stewardship and leadership through an indigenous-led research programme for Rangitāhua.

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