Research Project

Are the kina still fat when pōhutukawa bloom?

For generations, Ngāti Whakahemo have used the whakataukī of the flowering pōhutukawa as a tohu to tell us when the kina are ripe and ready to harvest at Motunau (Plate Island) and on its surrounding reefs. Unfortunately, kaumātua and kaitiaki have begun to observe that the way the pōhutukawa blossoms (when, for how long, and how intensely) is no longer in sync with or a strong indicator of the fatness of kina.

Taiohi surveying kina. Photo by Joe Burke.

This imbalance is caused by a changing climate and rising ocean temperatures and is considered to be a prelude to deeper environmental issues. In response, this proactive project brings together coastal kaitiaki, taiohi and scientists to co-develop a unique underwater mātauranga-led Kaupapa.  

This practical, hands-on project combines marae-based wānanga with free-dive training, technology and tohu+climate science monitoring. By honing in on this single tohu, Ngāti Whakahemo can begin to build a picture of how climate change will alter traditional tohu or even create new tohu. This will help us identify steps to address the risks for our mahinga kai.

This project is designed to enable the intergenerational transmission of knowledge and practice, which has always assisted us to self-regulate management regimes for our mahinga kai and which enriches the cultural connectivity of our moana and mokopuna.

This project is led by Te Rūnanga ō Ngāti Whakahemo, supported by the Pukehina Marae Committee and māori scientists from MUSA Environmental, Waikato University and Plant and Food Research. We envision that the methods and findings from this project will support other coastal hapū and iwi to investigate their own cultural, ecological and climate contexts, to assist broader decision-making and adaptive management.