Waikato-based Kumeroa works alongside Gisborne-based Director Pou Arataki (Māori) Reg Proffit. A focus for the pair is developing new ways of incorporating Rautaki Māori priorities into WSP’s strategic planning; and helping with bicultural organisational capability. An equally important part of their work is strengthening WSP’s client partnerships with Iwi (tribes) and Hapū (sub-tribes).
With the design and build of infrastructure happening in the natural environment, Kumeroa says it’s essential that Māori are involved as active kaitiaki (guardians) to promote sound environmental principles for the benefit of all.
“Changes we make to the built and natural environment are typically here for the long term. This lies at the heart of Māori values of tāria te wā and kaitiakitanga - long-term thinking and guardianship.
“Māori have developed perspectives on environmental issues over centuries, and Iwi and Hapū remain closely connected with their taiao (environment). Performing their responsibilities as kaitiaki is a core value that Māori bring to infrastructure projects. So is acting sustainably for intergenerational well-being - even more so today, with the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation,” he says.
Over the past several years, WSP’s Rautaki Māori (strategy) has increased its focus on helping clients develop relationships with Iwi and Hapū partners. There’s also been a focus on upskilling staff through education and strategic appointments.
Kumeroa says Māori worldviews, which are based on centuries of observation of the physical and social environment, are increasingly being used on projects – from the design to delivery stage.
He points to WSP’s involvement in the Huntly section of the Waikato Expressway. Seven local marae had a voice during design and construction, and a working group was set up to help recognise culturally significant locations and assist with ecological and environmental parts of the project.
Extensive engagement with iwi was a hallmark of flood protection works in and around Nelson's Saxton Creek. Eight iwi groups were involved in coming up with a solution to increase the capacity of the creek's culverts, while protecting taonga (treasured) freshwater fish species that thrive in the Saxton Tidal Creek area.
The cultural history and narratives of Saxton Creek are reflected in artwork commissioned especially for the project. That was also a strong focus of Palmerston North City Council’s new He Ara Kotahi Bridge - where the story of the Rangitāne iwi has been woven into the design as a karaka log.
In another great example, Te Ao Māori values and principles are being incorporated into stormwater and hydraulic design for the new Manawatū Highway. These include separating waimāori (clean) and waikino (dirty) water, promoting fish passage, minimising construction disturbance, native planting and naturally treating road runoff.
“We’re fully committed to working with clients to help them connect with Iwi and Hapū; and to co-design projects and bring knowledge systems together to inform everybody’s unique responsibilities as kaitiaki of natural resources,” says Kumeroa.
More information about WSP’s Kei o Tātau Whare - Māori Business and Advisory Services can be found here.