Geothermal activity has always been regarded as a significant traditional resource among Māori communities of the Bay of Plenty, Rotorua and Taupō districts.
The association of Māori people with tourism in the Rotorua district dates from before mid-nineteenth century. This is when overseas visitors began arriving in New Zealand to view such scenic wonders as the Pink and White Terraces and other geothermal phenomena. Today these families continue that legacy in the tourist industry, which has been and still is, an important means of livelihood for many Māori families associated to Whakarewarewa Village.
Since 2011 GNS Science, Whakarewarewa – The Living Māori Village and GNS Science continue research communication through the facility Te Mātāpuna o Papatūānuku. This provides a centre for educational and outreach activities as a part of our desire to have a more prominent presence in earth sciences. This aligns with on-going research as Māori landowners and resource managers continue their role as kaitiaki in the Whakarewarewa geothermal field.
The ability of people to use natural resources for this purpose is the illustrated version of the story of the Tarawera Eruption. The Whakarewarewa Science facility provides examples of Māori approaches and involvement in resource use in both traditional and contemporary contexts. We seek to understand the contribution that Māori knowledge and science can make to realising both commercial and cultural outcomes. This reciprocal relationship between land and people is a fundamental aspect of Māori cultural identity and gives rise to a complex and interconnecting value system and includes a responsibility to act as kaitiaki (guardians) of natural resources for the generations to come.
Dealing with the geothermal system requires decision-making, planning, and managing these natural resources with partner agencies. However, the world economy is changing and is more and more driven by innovation and new technologies. This new economy will be determined by intellectual capital and the ability to translate ideas into new technologies, products and services. We will need to keep changing and adapting to stay relevant in the innovation economy. Our biggest asset in this new economy will be our people.
We need to understand future opportunities and pressures to ensure that our people have access to the right education, opportunities and investment information to make positive decisions about the future of the geothermal features and resources.
In 2018 we welcome the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology to our research team. The relationships consider our new realities of living with geothermal hazards and adapting to this environment by introducing new nanotechnology and understanding frontier materials. This new knowledge explores issues around the sustainability of our environment – global warming and our resilience as a people living on a geothermal system.
Here at Whakarewarewa we are proud to share insights into the collective research that we do. Visiting our facility, Te Mātāpuna Papatūānuku, our Earth Science Facility is available to all visitors as part of all packages.