Towards rangatiratanga in pest management? Maori perspectives and frameworks on novel biotechnologies in conservation

S. Palmer, O. R. Mercier and A. King-Hunt,  Pacific Conservation Biology,  11. 2020.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, the government has set a target for the country to become predator-free by 2050, largely as a response to the threat of extinction that introduced mammals pose to native birds. Current pest management tools lack the scalability required to reach pest eradication; thus, new technologies are being explored through public research funding, including controversial techniques such as gene drive. While the need to listen to Maori perspectives on genetic technologies is broadly recognised, the Treaty relationship between government and Maori demands more, including attention to rangatiratanga (autonomy for Maori) and tikanga (Maori customary protocols). A ‘social license to operate’ is argued to be key to getting public support for such technologies, but is that consistent with a Maori approach? To address this question, we gathered Maori perspectives on novel biotechnological controls for pest wasps through three distinct studies. Study participants included tertiary students, businesses, and spiritual or religiously affiliated groups. All participants drew from their identities as Maori people to help identify their position on these issues. Their perspectives on issues of consent and Social Licence suggest a preference for processes based upon rangatiratanga. Participant perspectives were also organised according to atake utu ea decision-making framework. This exercise suggests that this framework continues to be a relevant and useful contribution to how biotechnology discussions are framed. Rangatiratanga and tikangaare underlying considerations for Maori in relation to novel biotechnologies, and, if recognised more widely, have potential to transform conservation biology in Aotearoa New Zealand.

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