Narratives of science and community in marine ecosystem restoration

Narratives of science and community in marine ecosystem restoration

Author: Patrick Barrett – The University of Waikato, New Zealand

Patrick Barrett – The University of Waikato
Priya Kurian – The University of Waikato
Naomi Simmonds – The University of Waikato

This is the story of the Kaituna River in the North Island of New Zealand, a river of enormous cultural and social significance from the time of the earliest Māori settlement. It is also a story of science and society interacting and reshaping each other in ways that offer significant lessons for understanding the role and place of different forms of knowledge in the quest for social and ecological sustainability. The Kaituna River was diverted in 1956 to bypass the Ongatoro/Maketu estuary, resulting in the ecological destruction of the estuary, with devastating cultural and material consequences for the Māori tribes and communities in the area. In 2009, a major decision, involving local government, Māori and a wide range of stakeholders, was made to re-divert the River to restore the health of the Ongatoro/Maketu Estuary, and this agreement is currently being implemented. The history of this restoration project provides an opportunity to examine the way scientific knowledge has come together with traditional knowledge to arrive at an implementable solution.

This paper scrutinises key moments in the history of negotiation over the design of the strategy to enhance our understanding of how science-based knowledge of ecosystem restoration came together with traditional Māori knowledge to improve the design and increase community support for the initiative. From a science engagement perspective we explore how, despite often fraught interactions, a dynamic engagement process allowed the central actors to share competing and conflicting narratives in an iterative process, resulting in a successful and nuanced alignment of perspectives. We argue that the Ongatoro/Maketu Estuary restoration project provides an example of effective public communication of science that is responsive to the community and that leads to solutions that are durable and achievable.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Visual talk
Theme: Stories
Area of interest: Investigating science communication practices