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Measuring the restoration of mauri and ecosystem services at Whenua Rangatira
Whenua Rangatira lies adjacent to Okahu Bay, occupying a dominant headland near the mouth of the Waitemata Harbour. The headland and surroundings are the ancestral home of Ngāti Whātua o Ōrākei. Under the Ōrākei Act 1991, several parcels of land, including Whenua Rangatira, were returned to Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei to be co-managed as a reserve with Auckland Council for the benefit of all Aucklanders. Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei is returning Whenua Rangatira and nearby tribal lands at Okahu Bay and Pourewa Creek to lush native bush for everyone in the community to enjoy. To investigate the environmental impacts and social values of this space, this study will use the same terrestrial ecology methods to compare and contrast ‘restoration success’ at a more established restoration site in West Auckland (project Twin Streams). The use of ecosystem restoration is a key part of many park and land development strategies for council and private landowners. Despite this, there is almost no published New Zealand information (and none from Auckland or smaller scale urban restorations) on key aspects of planted and natural ecosystems. Both the Auckland Plan and Unitary Plan direct Auckland Council to create more meaningful partnerships and co-management arrangements with Mana Whenua. The Auckland Council Research Information Management Unit (RIMU) sees its role in this process as developing measures of changing Mauri/ ecosystem/ natural heritage values that are of relevance to Auckland’s Mana Whenua in their role as co-managers and protectors of the region’s natural assets. RIMU has partnered with Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, NPM & the University of Auckland. Part One of the project involves in-depth photo elicitation interviews with up to six Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei ‘stakeholders’ including local kaumatua. Part Two involves up to 15 detailed public site user surveys. These surveys will determine how people are using the sites and the symbolic value they attribute to their use. Part Three of the project, is to use the 2015 Waitangi Day celebrations on Takaparawhau to engage with many Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei uri. A simple 2-3 question survey will be launched then and the key aim of that survey is to determine the level of awareness that Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei tangata have of ’ko te Pukaki’ – the Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei restoration plan. The intern will work as part of a wider team on all 3 stages of the project and will write the final report on the combined studies of all researchers. The overall programme project seeks to find ways to understand how and what to monitor, which is ultimately linked to restoring the mauri to Te Whenua Rangatira, by focusing on the environmental, social and cultural indicators identified by Ngāti Whātua and in a framework that is underpinned with their values, paradigm and tikanga. The mauri of Te Whenua Rangatira is inextricably linked to the mauri and mana of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei. If the research demonstrates an improvement in the mauri of Te Whenua Rangatira, then by definition it is improving the mauri of the people. In addition, simply by undertaking the project with tangata whenua on a project dear to them, will also lead to those involved to an experience of their own mana.