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Social systems: Current Projects

Social systems

Learn more about current projects by ESR's social systems team, including rural land management, Māori health, and research into the mysteries of yersinosis.

Current projects

Moving the middle

Social Systems team members are involved in a 5-year Endeavour programme which started in October 2021 and is being led by Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research. ‘Moving the Middle’ aims to support rural land managers to take early action to address the complex environmental issues they face.

This research  investigates research investigates the systemic aspects of agricultural land management and its impacts, focusing on the majority of land managers ‘in the middle’ who are willing to make necessary changes but are constrained by the systems surrounding them (e.g. finance, policy). In particular, the project will look at the influence of public and private narratives, debt loading and investment practices, policy signals and perceptions, and traditional and new agents of change in empowering rural land managers to respond proactively. 

More information is available on the Moving the Middle website.

Ōhanga āmiomio

Jinny Baker and Sudesh Sharma from the Social Systems team are actively supporting a tikanga-led research space within the "Ōhanga Āmiomio - Circular Economy" project in collaboration with the Environmental Water team. The emphasis on building trust and mutual learning in partnership with Para Kore is helping embed tikanga Māori values and principles in ESR’s science research for managing biowastes. This embedding will benefit all stakeholders, foster more ethical and accountable approaches to innovation, and lead to positive social and environmental outcomes.

Contemporary justice issues for wāhine Māori 1990-2020

This research report examines impacts of justice on wāhine Māori. It examines equity and disparities experienced by wāhine Māori, takatāpui and whakawāhine relating to justice issues, disproportionately high incarceration, impacts of sexual, family, and other forms of violence, and access to equitable justice outcomes.

The research is commissioned by the Waitangi Tribunal for the WAI2700 Mana Wāhine Kaupapa Inquiry. Helena Rattray-Te Mana leads this research supported by Suzanne Manning, Hokimate Harwood, and Grace Heiss.

Iwi ora: restoring iwi historical wellbeing knowledge

This three year research project aims to restore mātauranga-a-Iwi (tribal knowledge) by retrieving and revitalising disrupted historical Māori health and well-being information, unveiling rich pre-colonial history.

ESR partnered with Te Rūnanga o Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa to develop innovative strategies for genuine and dynamic co-research. Together, we seek a deeper understanding and stronger connection to pre-colonial Iwi health and wellbeing to inform contemporary Iwi health and wellbeing.

The research is funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment Strategic Science Investment Fund, and is led by Helena Rattray-Te Mana.


Pou kōrero: speaking for our ancestors

Te Rūnanga o Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa collaborated with ESR to restore mātauranga-a-Hapū (sub-tribe knowledge) over two years, to revive eight significant hapū sites and improve knowledge and ability to protect these sites. Hapū youth will be equipped to carry the history for intergenerational guardianship.

The research is funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment Vision Capability Fund. Dr Cherryl Smith leds this hapū research and is supported by Helena Rattray-Te Mana.

Local scale wastewater-based epidemiology

Testing of sewage for the presence of infectious disease, known as wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE), is a powerful tool for assessing disease in whole communities without the need for individualised testing. In this Te Niwha funded project we are focusing on local-scale WBE, such as at the level of sampling individual buildings or a single aircraft arriving at our borders. Maria Hepi from the Social Systems team is working on engaging with Tangata Whenua, Pacific peoples, local communities, airlines, Government and public health organisations regarding the acceptability of local scale WBE. We will consider the ethical implications, the most appropriate actions to be taken in response to results generated, and the pathways for dissemination of results. 

Whakahā o te pā harakeke: realising the vision for a smokefree future

Whakahā o Te Pā Harakeke is a five-year research programme funded by the Health Research Council to help realise the vision of a smokefree future expressed in the Smokefree Aotearoa goal.

The programme comprises three miro that reflect core principles of partnership and capacity building; a commitment to eliminating disparities, and an undertaking to foster active engagement with all stakeholders. The programme comprises three closely linked whenu.

The ESR social systems team is a partner, contributing to Whenu toru which seeks to understand influences on tobacco control policy and action, in order to identify opportunities for further action and support the use of research across Whakahā o Te Pā Harakeke. More information is available on the programme’s website.

Te Hau o te Whau: the essence of the Whau awa

Working in partnership with Te Kawerau ā Maki (TKAM), Ecomatters Environment Trust, Auckland Council and others, the research in the Whau catchment was conducted as part of the AIM2 Aotearoa Impacts and Mitigation of Microplastics and the Emerging Organic Contaminants - Managing the Risk of Organic Contaminants projects funded by New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) Endeavour Research Programme. The projects aim to better understand and find ways to reduce the environmental impacts of contaminants of emerging concern that include pharmaceuticals, ingredients in household cleaning and personal care products, and microplastics.

Community and mana whenua/Indigenous knowledge partnerships have helped broaden awareness of the cultural histories of the area, supporting local connections to the waterways, enhancing community ‘capacity to act’ to care for the waterways, and strengthening the focus on how contaminants enter the waterways including attention on the journey from ‘macro to micro’ pollutants.

Partnership and codesign approaches have supported a focus on connection with cultural meaning and history whereby restoration of the spirit and essence of the waterways has become a central axiom in the research focus.  Actions have included ongoing organised streamside litter clean ups, attention to brands and types of litter and engagement with local industries, native plantings, and better connectedness across various local forum for the research to inform local planning.

Learn more on the Ecomatters project website.

Learn more about ESR's research on microplastics.