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Background information

Consultation with Māori

The nature of consultation

"Consulting involves the statement of a proposal not yet finally decided upon, listening to what others have to say, considering their responses and then deciding what will be done." (Mr Justice McGechan, cited in 'Working with Māori under the HSNO Act; a Guide to Applicants'). However, opinions vary on the intent behind the word, and consultation can have negative connotations for Māori, as a result of bad experiences in some instances. Engagement is another term that is widely used, and refers to attracting and involving someone’s interest, rather than merely canvassing their opinions before making a decision. With regard to the process of consultation required by the EPA, engagement can be seen as the groundwork on which a meaningful formal consultation process can be conducted. The Ministry for the Environment has further useful information [] and discussion of what constitutes effective consultation.

For the biocontrol researcher, facing limited funding and the huge technical and intellectual challenges of carrying out a biocontrol project, the need to engage with Māori can be daunting. Engaging and consulting with Māori for the purposes of an EPA application may require a biocontrol researcher to step outside their usual way of working to take into account the perspectives and opinions of a culture very different from that of the Western scientific culture in which they usually work. This can be personally challenging, and needs to be approached with respect and an open mind, as well as an awareness that the scientific viewpoint is only one of many possible interpretations of the world around us. The inclusion of spirituality in Māori protocol, in the form of prayers (karakia) or hymns (himene), may be challenging to some. Western culture maintains a strong separation between science and religion, to the extent that spiritual beliefs are very rarely expressed in science workplaces in New Zealand. Māori culture, however, can blend spiritual and supernatural considerations with knowledge of the natural environment. Where western science is traditionally reductionist, understanding the whole by examining the constituent parts, the Māori approach to science is holistic, understanding the whole through an understanding of relationships between the parts.