The 5 October 2011 grounding of the MV Rena on Otaiti was acknowledged as the worst environmental disaster in New Zealand’s history. The grounding and subsequent pollution had significant environmental impacts that were experienced in anthropogenic terms as impacts upon social, economic, and cultural well-being. The Ministry for the Environment responded with the Rena Long-Term Environmental Recovery Plan launched on 26 January 2012. The plan’s goal is to “restore the mauri of the affected environment to its pre-Rena state”.
The goal of mauri restoration is significant as this positions the environmental recovery in conceptual terms aligned to the aspirations of the indigenous peoples of the affected area. The goal of mauri restoration is significant but also problematic as conventional ‘western’ decision making processes have historically been incapable of effectively including considerations of impacts upon mauri. Uncertainty has been introduced in these decision making processes as the ignorance of matauranga Māori and indigenous epistemologies amongst consultants frustrates an effective response. The result has been constrained Iwi engagement leading to imperfect consideration of how impacts upon mauri should best be mitigated.
Mauri is the life supporting capacity of an ecosystem inclusive of people who are an inseparable part of it. The restoration of mauri requires the recognition of important meta-physical considerations not otherwise included in conventional impact assessment and decision making. The Mauri Model Decision Making Framework is an ideal approach to investigate this challenge and determine the sustainability implications of disaster mitigation strategies being promulgated. In particular our participatory action based research approach is being enhanced through the digitisation of the mauriOmeter to allow independent analysis by any party affected by the MV Rena grounding.
The digitised mauriOmeter facilitates the absolute sustainability assessment of decision choices by individuals. The mauriOmeter assesses decision choices as indicators grouped in four equally weighted mauri dimensions that represent the ecossystem. The mauri dimensions equate to environmental, cultural, social and economic well-being acknowledging the holistic perspective of Indigenous peoples and acknowledged in New Zealand legislation. The impact upon mauri is determined as the change in life supporting capacity of the indicator being considered.