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Ngāti Toa youth get first peak inside ESR labs

29 June 2021

The group of Porirua rangatahi (youth) toured ESR’s Kenepuru-based health, mircrobiology, and toxicology labs, it was their first time behind the gates.

They were visiting the Institute of Environmental Science Research (ESR) as part of a Ngāti Toa Rangatira youth programme, Paria Te Tai (changing the tide). The group’s focus is on connecting rangatahi to the environment and improving education, employment and training outcomes for 15 to 24 year old Māori, who are not in employment or study. 

Paria Te Tai member Riria Solomon remembers being told when she was growing up, “that’s a restircted area, you’re not allowed in there”, whenever she passed the fenced off science centre, “it was a cool opportunity to come to ESR”.
Donna Warren ESR’s Ngāti Toa Rangatira mana whenua liaison, says the group  worked with ESR scientists and Greater Wellington Regional Council to learn how to test the health of the local waterways on 14 June.

ESR Kaihautū Wai, Director of Water Māori, Kelly Palmer says that now the rangatahi have learnt to use water testing equipment, “kūia and kaumātua will be invited to take part as well, so they can kōrero (talk) about their awa (streams, rivers), tell their stories and understand the state of water”.

Palmer says the testing will give the iwi a baseline and greater understanding of what is going on in their water environment.

For the past several months ESR has been collaborating with Ngāti Toa on the rebuild of its Kenepuru site and have together developed a comprehensive cultural brief to inform the design and build of the new site. Ngāti Toa General Managers visited the site in March to find out more about what ESR does and discuss opportunities for rangatahi. 

Warren says the visit from Paria Te Tai is the beginning of working together on science-led projects. “The rebuild project was a great opportunity for ESR to find out about sites of signficance to the iwi,” Warren says. “Working with rangatahi, and investigating the health of our wai is the next step.”

General Manager Māori Impact Jymal Morgan says ESR’s relationship with Ngāti Toa is a strategic priority for ESR. “As an organisation we are actively collaborating and engaging with mana whenua where our four sites are located.”

ESR has sites in Kenepuru-Porirua, Wallaceville-Upper Hutt, Mount Albert-Auckland, and Linwood-Christchurch).

Morgan says having a dedicated mana whenua liaison of Ngāti Toa descent at ESR, has been vital for the development of the relationship with the iwi.

“Our collaboration with Ngāti Toa for the rebuild at Kenepuru has been a partnership with Ngāti Toa,” he says. “This has resulted in the development of a comprehensive cultural brief based on shared thinking and mātauranga Ngāti Toa”.