ESR Māori impact intern engages in biowaste tikanga research
After a 10-week ESR Māori Impact internship at the start of the year looking at transforming biowaste from tapu (restricted) to noa (free from restrictions), Grace Feltham (Te Ātihaunui-a-Pāpārangi) is now studying microplastics at master’s level and working alongside ESR’s Christchurch-based microplastics team.
Grace’s internship had a research focus on biowaste and was supported by ESR’s biowaste team and the Māori Impact team. One topic that emerged when she completed a literature review as part of her internship was an historic lack of communication with Māori. “There has been a lack of communication and trust between the people, the scientists, the government, and Māori at the local level who don’t know what is entering their waste streams”, she says. Grace thinks a lot of it can be improved through communication. “Māori want to have some control and an understanding of what the waste is composed of, and what disposal methods they can use.
She says the key message is that a shared understanding is needed that includes where Māori are coming from, from a cultural perspective when articulating new technology to Māori. She also recommends that scientists understand that Māori have diverse and differing views and opinions.
For example, “on whether we should interweave our tikanga with modern technology, or whether we should stick to our old strategies and practices. I think from a values standpoint there is definitely space for science to exist alongside mātauranga Māori and alongside tikanga.”
She says it is just a matter of understanding and having communication, “because some Māori will want to embrace it, and some won’t.”
ESR Kaipūtaiao Māori (Māori Impact Scientist) Georgia Bell, says Grace’s work has helped to incorporate tikanga Māori into waste processing system and methodology designs, and was part of a $0.5m per year project for two years, ESR Strategic Science Investment Fund project focussed on safer use of biowastes. Georgia says the project, “Ohanga Amiomio looks at circular economies. The crucial part of this mahi, Grace has contributed to, is involvement of Māori partners, with expertise in these spaces, from the outset of designing alternative systems.”