My presentation explores the use of a geo-spatial tool in connecting Māori descendants with their kin-communities and ancestral land through the website www.maorimaps.com.
In 2009, a team of researchers began a project that involved visiting the all tribal marae in New Zealand. The project aimed – for the first time – to geographically record (by global positioning system – GPS) the locations of every tribal marae. Tribal marae is used by Māori Maps to denote kin-community centres living on the soil of their ancestors. From the community gate, the team collated a basic overview of marae, geographic data (GIS) data, and took high-resolution images. Nine years later (2018), 777 marae of New Zealand have been mapped on www.maorimaps.com. The research trips offered useful research insights into the varied states and conditions of marae. While the Māori Maps team visited many vibrant marae, there were numerous marae left derelict, sometimes even abandoned. The further away marae were located from urban hubs, generally, the more geographically, if not socially disconnected the away-descendants had become from their source communities. In responding to the apparent crises facing marae, Māori Maps research projects created a digital web-based digital mapping platform designed to assist descendants’ reconnection to their marae.
In 2018, Māori Maps added a data layer displaying nationwide Māori land information. The new layer visually represents remaining Māori landholdings in relation to marae (former centres of economy), revealing the Māori presence in different regions. It is a powerful indication of the economic base for large tribal groupings (iwi) and kin-communities (hapū). Data fields also include block names and area, total owners, management name details, soil information and land suitability. Our users can now select a field that shows Māori landholdings via links to Māori Land Online (Māori Land Court) and WhenuaViz (Landcare Research). Genealogically and geographically dislocated Māori descendants can now trace connections to marae through ancestral land interests.
The Ministry of Justice, the Māori Land Court and Landcare Research made data freely available, while our developers Zest IT integrated it into the website. The latest addition to the Māori Maps resource was made possible through the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s National Science Challenge project Mauri Whenua Ora.