Matauranga Maori Print

​​​​​​​​​Matauranga Maori refers to the body of knowledge that Maori communities and individuals have accumulated in the time that Maori have lived in Aotearoa. 

This knowledge is place-focused, and based on empirical observation and interaction with environments in which Maori traditionally occupied and continue to live.

​​A definition is provided by Te Ahukaramü Charles Royal:

"Matauranga Maori, or Maori knowledge, is created by Maori humans according to a set of key ideas and by the employment of certain methodologies to explain the Maori experience of the world" (Royal, 1998).

Matauranga Maori is a living resource, and able to develop and grow in response to the changing world that contemporary Maori live within, and to which this knowledge must be applied. Another key aspect of matauranga Maori is that the holders of this knowledge are tangata whenua, and access to this detailed knowledge relies entirely upon consultation and engagement with these groups.

Traditional values and concepts derived from matauranga Maori are valuable management tools from design/construction to monitoring, and for policy and planning perspectives. There is considerable potential within the design of stormwater management systems to acknowledge and include matauranga Maori including plant varieties for cultural harvest, kaitiakitanga (stewardship), and promotion of mauri (life force/spiritual health).


The concept of mauri is a central belief of Te Ao Maori, the Maori world, with connections to the spiritual, physical and temporal realms. Loosely translated as the life force or life essence which exists within all matter, mauri sits at the very core of sustainable design for Maori. Mauri levels are potentially erodible through poor environmental management. However, restoration of mauri is also achievable through the application of appropriate decision-making and management practices.

A community, environment, or resource possesses its own mauri, which is the aggregation and inter-connectedness of the mauri of its constituent components. If one aspect of the community, environment or resource is degraded, the mauri of the total entity is affected and degraded, and the quality of life of that community will suffer. If that deficient aspect is restored, then the mauri of the total entity is restored.

In this way, the mauri of resources should be preserved through inspection and maintenance of WSD practices to keep a state of balance, being an indicator of strength, good health, and resilience of our communities. It is very important tangata whenua are involved in environmental decision making and planning processes to minimise potential effects on mauri, Maori values, and Maori communities.​


Wai (water) is one of the central components of the spiritual and physical worlds for Maori. It is a gift that permits, sustains and promotes life and well-being for all. Knowledge of water cycles is an important aspect of matauranga Maori, and is held and administered by tangata whenua within their areas of influence. 

Water can be described in at least five determinable states for Maori, all of which relate to the concept of mauri and the presence of mauri within that water: 
  • Waiora (water in its most 'pure' form)
  • Waimaori (water for consumption)
  • Waimate (water that has lost its mauri and is no longer able to sustain life)
  • Waikino (water that is polluted or dangerous for humans)
  • Waitai (seawater, the surf or the tide)
​Within a water cycle, mauri is very high within rainfall, but is progressively reduced as it flows over impervious surfaces, contacting and transporting heavy metals, pesticides, fertilisers, pathogens and other potential pollutants within the environment. This degradation of water quality will affect the mauri of receiving waters into which it is discharged. Thus, discharging stormwater directly into water with higher mauri is an example of unnatural mixing of mauri, and should be avoided. Conversely, the dispersal of stormwater to/through land-based systems will restore the mauri of that water, and is seen by many Maori as the most appropriate means of stormwater management.

​​​​​Appropriate management practices

​Potential management practices that account for tangata whenua perspectives may include:

  • Recognition and involvement of tangata whenua in decision-making and planning processes as kaitiaki (guardian)
  • An increased level of meaningful engagement around stormwater management practices and landscape responses
  • Engagement of matauranga Maori in research and design of water systems
  • Avoiding the mixing of waters from different catchment sources
  • Treating stormwater by passing it through land or rock before it is released into receiving environments
  • Water conservation, including water harvesting, to preserve the resource and its mauri
  • Identification, recognition and appropriate protection/enhancement of culturally significant sites/features
  • Re-vegetation for stormwater management utilising indigenous plants, and incorporating species that will allow Maori to safely harvest traditional flora and fauna resources
  • Tertiary treatment wetlands with the potential for use by communities
  • Protecting and restoring streams as taonga (socially or culturally valuable resources), including restoring eroded and channelised streams and daylighting streams from pipes​​​
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