Te Mana o Rangitāhua

Te Mana o Rangitāhua

Rangitāhua (Kermadec Islands) is located halfway between mainland Aotearoa and Tonga and contains marine and terrestrial biodiversity found nowhere else in the world, including internationally significant terrestrial nature reserves and Aotearoa’s largest marine reserve. It has been identified as one of only four pristine marine ecosystems on Earth. 

Rangitāhua is a tūpuna to Ngāti Kuri, and an ancestral entity representing Aotearoa’s geographic and cultural connection to the Pacific. 

Our research is developed within a collaborative framework whereby iwi, as mana whenua and kaitiaki, in partnership with researchers, are at the centre of delivering on our national and international obligations around marine and terrestrial reserves, and our obligations to Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

About our Research

About our Research

Te Mana o Rangitāhua is a five-year (2020-2025) Ministry of Business, Innovation, Employment (MBIE) Endeavour-funded research programme led by Ngāti Kuri in partnership with Auckland Museum. Through this research, we will transform environmental wellbeing practices for Aotearoa through Indigenous practices of reconnecting, reidentifying, and restoring within a subtropical island ecosystem that is a bellwether for climate change.  

Te Mana o Rangitāhua as a research project recognises all tangible and intangible links between people, the environment and tāonga. Multiple viewpoints are considered within the project that reflect our expertise and the overall research position and vision. It will enable the restorying of its cultural, biodiversity, scientific and geographical prominence. We will develop methods and knowledge to ensure the mauri and kaitiakitanga of Rangitāhua’s ecosystems. Ultimately, the research will bring balance to Rangitāhua’s narrative by reconnecting, reidentifying and restorying Rangitāhua for Ngāti Kuri and the people of Aotearoa. It will enable us to identify how we as a nation can understand what we need to do to preserve and protect one of the most special places in the world.


For general information please email: [email protected] to subscribe to our mailing list and remain connected with upcoming opportunities and outreach activities. 




To transform Aotearoa’s environmental stewardship and leadership through an indigenous-led research programme for Rangitāhua. Rangitāhua will be understood as a site of cultural, biological and environmental significance to Ngāti Kuri, Aotearoa and the Southwest Pacific. Te Mana o Rangitāhua will be an internationally recognised example of indigenous governance and holistic ecosystem management.



To generate new models of understanding to safeguard Rangitāhua’s ecosystems, promote resilience and wellbeing, and create platforms for ecological reform.

Dispatches from our latest voyage

Read blogs from our crew on the 2022 Rangitāhua expedition

Anticipated Outcomes

A snapshot of the kinds of outcomes we imagine emerging from our research programme include:

New kaitiakitanga practices for Ngāti Kuri through Te Kupenga, an interconnected ecosystem model to inform environmental practice.

Strengthened links in the Pacific, by establishing Indigenous partnerships through international Indigenous networks leveraged from Ngāti Kuri’s commitment to Taiātea.

Future research priorities for Rangitāhua clearly identified by establishing fit for purpose modeling and by integrating terrestrial and marine environments as one programme of work that advocates strongly for recognising the relational connections between all environmental factors.

New policies and operational guidelines for managing Rangitāhua with mana whenua at centre by powering- up Ngāti Kuri’s pupuri mauhanga framework, with the ultimate vision for advanced capability within marine protection and conservation for Māori.

New policies and operational guidelines are developed for how to manage NZ ecosystems in partnership with iwi by cross-examining Indigenous approaches to innovation and conservation models.

New research practices and the delivery of an Indigenously-framed ecological model bringing new Māori scientific approaches and expertise.

Public are better informed, excited, and encouraged about Rangitāhua and feel connected to this remote region through access to new knowledge, art, digital pūrākau and exhibitions.

Public have the tools to make informed choices about the care of marine sanctuary spaces.

Ultimately reconnect, reidentify and restory Rangitāhua for Ngāti Kuri and the people of Aotearoa, resulting in ‘Ko Rangitāhua Tēnei’ – an identity recognised and restored for Rangitāhua.

Research focus

Te Mana o Rangitāhua has two fundamental research questions.

At the core of our work is to reconnect, reidentify and restory Rangitāhua for Ngāti Kuri and for Aotearoa.

What are the main contributors to a thriving and healthy ecosystem for Rangitāhua?

How can knowledge from Indigenous and scientific research paradigms be applied to meet future environmental challenges and secure environmental justice?

Media release


“Tō tātou hā i te tuatahi ko te moana, hā tuarua nō tātou te whenua - our first breath is from the ocean our second from the land”- Ngāti Kuri whakatauki.

Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland Museum and Ngāti Kuri have been successful in establishing a joint research programme focused on Rangitāhua / Kermadec Islands. The programme has received $13.3M in research funding from Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment’s Endeavour Fund for a five-year period.

Te mana o Rangitāhua: A holistic approach to transform ecosystem wellbeing, is a five-year research programme in partnership with Ngāti Kuri, with additional partners from University of Auckland, Massey University, NIWA and Manaaki Whenua. 

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Rangitāhua, halfway between mainland Aotearoa and Tonga, comprises both internationally significant terrestrial nature reserves and one of Aotearoa’s largest marine reserves. It is scientifically identified as one of only four pristine marine ecosystems on Earth that is fully protected, and as a result contains a fully functional ecosystem.

The research programme, co-led by Dr Thomas Trnski (Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum) and Sheridan Waitai (Ngāti Kuri), will focus on the biodiversity and ecosystems of Rangitāhua / Kermadec Islands, alongside a mātauranga lens on translating the resulting research evidence into tangible tools for iwi-led management of the Rangitāhua environment.

Ngāti Kuri, through whakapapa, have an obligation to restore the mauri of their ancestral lands and oceans of Rangitāhua.

Sheridan Waitai, Ngāti Kuri says, “Rangitāhua and all those elements that define its purpose and function reflects our tupuna’s articulation of the contiguous nature of land, sea and people.”

The research team will adopt a transformational approach to informing the ecosystem management of this marine reserve space, by identifying tohu (indicators) of ecosystem change within a kaupapa Māori framework. Iwi, as mana whenua and kaitiaki, will work in partnership with world-leading scientists to build knowledge and develop methods to ensure the resilience of Rangitāhua’s ecosystems.

Rangitāhua presents a highly ambitious, interdisciplinary research programme which considers both social and environmental domains. This research will combine indigenous knowledge and state-of-the-art ecosystem modelling to create the tools to move from “sustainability” to “thrivability”. This is a transformative approach to environmental management by reconnecting, reidentifying, and restorying the cultural, environmental, scientific and geographical prominence of Rangitāhua.

Dr David Gaimster, Chief Executive, Auckland Museum says, “As New Zealand’s oldest research institution, Auckland Museum at its very core supports the advancement and promotion of scientific and cultural scholarship and research. The unique nature of this research, in partnership with Iwi and multiple tertiary institutions, cements the position of Auckland Museum as a nationally, if not internationally leading, research museum. The importance of this grant capture is significant for Auckland Museum, and advances the key objectives of our institution’s peer reviewed public Research Strategy.”

The research will better equip Aotearoa’s response to pressing issues of climate change and ocean health, and leading by example, will strengthen the synergies between mātauranga and science, generating new opportunities for ecological reform.

“Our Research Strategy is underpinned by an active approach to mātauranga Māori, which forms a foundation for all our research activities. As a result of this funding, the largest competitive research grant ever awarded to a museum in New Zealand, Auckland Museum is uniquely placed in Aotearoa to support an indigenous-led research programme,” says Dr Gaimster.

“The Museum has supported research at Rangitāhua for a long time, and in addition to this, has nurtured a collaborative relationship with Ngāti Kuri. Their expert and knowledgeable curatorial staff and researchers, part of a multifaceted workforce, establish Auckland War Memorial Museum as a leader and collaborator within scientific and educational institutions. The success of the additional funding for Te mana o Rangitāhua was in part due to the unique strengths of Auckland Museum,” says Sheridan Waitai, Ngāti Kuri.

Building upon established partnerships between Ngāti Kuri, this work involves renowned researchers and science leaders who are strongly connected to practice and are at the forefront of mātauranga Māori, ecological research, biodiversity conservation and community engagement with science.

This Rangitāhua research will be internationally recognised as an example of indigenous governance of the research and lead to informing holistic ecosystem management. It will generate new models of understanding to safeguard Rangitāhua’s ecosystems, promote resilience and wellbeing, and in turn, create platforms for ecological reform.

October - November 2016

2016 Expedition

The 2016 Kermadec expedition was a collaborative research effort by a team of researchers from Auckland Museum, the University of Auckland, Massey University, NIWA and the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. The multi-disciplinary team investigated the biodiversity of organisms living on the ocean floor and at midwater, how marine mammal populations use the region, and examined what animal and plant species are shared between mainland New Zealand and the Kermadec region.

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