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Source: Massey University

Giant, carnivorous land snails, Powelliphanta traversi.


The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has awarded three Massey University research projects nearly $750,000 from the Te Pūnaha Hihiko: Vision Mātauranga Capability Fund.

The fund aims to strengthen capability, capacity, skills and networks between Māori and the science and innovation system, and increase understanding of how research can contribute to the aspirations of Māori organisations and deliver benefit for New Zealand.

Of the 16 grants, Massey University is leading three research projects, and partnering on another.

Massey University Vice-Chancellor Professor Jan Thomas says “the result is a fantastic reflection on Massey’s focus on Mātauranga Māori and our efforts to be a Tiriti-led institution. 

“As a Tiriti-led university we are committed to demonstrating authentic leadership in a contemporary Aotearoa New Zealand as we uphold Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Massey has been working hard to champion new strategies for advancement and integration of te reo Māori and Māori knowledge, so to secure such a significant proportion of this fund is a credit to the talented researchers involved in these projects.

“I look forward with excitement to the contributions these projects stand to make to advanced outcomes for whānau, hapū and iwi, as well as the rest of Aotearoa.” 


He Whenua Pungapunga – Exploring the sustainable use of Te Arawa’s natural pumice resources – $250,000

Upon initiation by Te Pumautanga o Te Arawa Trust, the post-settlement governance trust of 11 Te Arawa affiliates, this project will bring together a team of experts with experience in bicultural research to explore ways of growing Te Arawa’s assets for the benefit of coming generations. 

Given that the largest volumes of pumice deposits are found within Ngati Tahu/Ngati Whaoa’s tribal area, Tauhara North No. 2 Trust, an ahu whenua trust (common land trust), will make their land available and partner with Massey University to investigate the abundance, unique properties and commercial potential of the pumice resources. The developed knowledge will directly be applied by project partner Zymbl Innovation to assess the potential use of pumice substrate in hydroponic horticulture through controlled growth trials in their growing facilities. 

The project will be co-led by Dr Anke Zernack from the School of Agriculture and Environment and Derrylea Hardy from the School of People Environment and Planning, in partnership with Tauhara North No. 2 Trust and Zymbl Innovation.


Innovating kaitiaki for indigenous taonga – pupurangi snails – $250,000

Giant, carnivorous land snails, Pupurangi or Powelliphanta, are a unique taonga of Aotearoa. Important lowland snail populations are found in the rohe of Muaūpoko in the Horowhenua. Remaining populations of the species Powelliphanta traversi are now restricted to a handful of small habitat patches and are at risk of habitat modification and predation. However, opportunities exist to enhance the conservation and kaitiakitanga (guardianship or protection) of these giant snails, through active management and appropriately planned environmental restoration. 

In this collaboration between Muaūpoko and Massey University, the researchers will enhance the ecological and environmental data on Powelliphanta snails. Cutting edge data will enable the development of a landscape model for suitable snail habitat. This model will then support Te Ao Māori led management strategies for these snails in the Horowhenua.

A key component of the research is sequencing the Powelliphanta traversi genome. The snail genome will enable significant advancements in the understanding of the biology and biogeography of the remaining populations.

The project will be led by Dr Simon Hills from the School of Agriculture and Environment, in partnership with Muaūpoko Tribal Authority Inc., Genomics Aotearoa, Genomics for Aotearoa New Zealand and Elshire Group Ltd. 


Te Aho Tapu Hou – A new sacred thread: Taking muka fibre to high value textiles to unlock sustainable harakeke-based Māori enterprise – $248,871

As an Aotearoa first, this project will develop the technology and processes to take muka fibre – the fibre that can be extracted from harakeke – to an industrially spun yarn, or thread, for the sustainable manufacture of high-value textiles. 

Rangi Te Kanawa (Ngati Maniapoto), Massey University and AgResearch will connect to work in partnership, along with Region Net Positive and Aotearoa Back Country Developments Ltd., to bring together Mātauranga (Māori knowledge) in traditional muka processing, and western fibre science in order to generate the knowledge required to adapt and optimise existing wool processing technology and infrastructure for muka fibre processing.

This project has the potential to enable a way forward for new high-value products that could benefit Aotearoa by unlocking opportunities for Māori communities and organisations through the re-establishment of economies based on harakeke as a raw material – as well as significantly contributing to the environmental restoration and protection from its cultivation.

This project is being led by Dr Faith Kane from the School of Design, in partnership with Rangi Te Kanawa, Region Net Positive Ltd, AgResearch and Aotearoa Back Country Developments Ltd.


Te Kawau Tiripou: Mātauranga Māori through GPS as a tool for Iwi and Hapū governance – $250,000

Tātau Tātau o Te Wairoa is the Post-Treaty Settlement Governance Entity for ngā iwi me ngā hapu o te rohe o Te Wairoa who signed a deed of settlement with the Crown in 2016. Following this settlement, Tatau Tatau has been required to accept dramatically increased responsibility for the environmental, social and cultural development within its rohe. 

Working with Massey University, which is experienced in applying Geographical Information Systems for indigenous knowledge, this project will develop a system which allows Tātau Tātau to expand its capability in contemporary environmental, economic and social decision-making. The project aims to reflect Māori understandings of time and space and to allow hapu storytelling, using multimedia sources, to be integrated with layers of historical, environmental, social and economic data. One crucial purpose is to generate a fund of cultural and ecological knowledge, provided by the different kāhui, iwi and hapu who make up Tātau Tātau. The aim is to ensure that kāhui relationships with land and other resources and the distinct histories which flow from them can be preserved, understood and handed on to future generations.

This project is being led by Tātau Tātau o Te Wairoa Trust, with support from Professor Michael Belgrave from the School of Humanties, Media and Creative Communication.

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