Interview: Loss of Maori institution potential blow for global indigenous research


WELLINGTON, March 17 — Indigenous cultures around the world could be counting the economic and social costs of the loss of a New Zealand institution that has become a cornerstone for an international network of indigenous research, a leading Maori researcher said Monday.
The Auckland-based Nga Pae o te Maramatanga, one of the New Zealand government-designated Centers of Research Excellence, warned earlier this month that it could close down next year after losing out on government funding that has financed key research of economic and social significance to New Zealand’s indigenous Maori.
Research director Dr. Daniel Hikuroa said Nga Pae o te Maramatanga and the global network of indigenous research was in danger of ending its work just as it was seeking to expand its international partnerships into China and South and Central America.
Leading Maori researchers and scholars around New Zealand expressed dismay and shock when the institution, established in 2002, announced that it had failed to make the short list for government funding and would close unless it could find other financing for research programs including Maori economic development, health, education and cultural preservation.
“It doesn’t bode well for indigenous research internationally. Nga Pae o te Maramatanga is the benchmark for an indigenous research center, so it will have far-reaching consequences,” Hikuroa told Xinhua in a phone interview.
“Nga Pae o te Maramatanga was the first center of its kind in the world to move beyond a single research focus to linking up inter-institutional research plans,” he said.
“We’ve also linked up many people internationally and there are many research centers that look to us for inspirations. Other institutions are using the model that we have created.”
The center had succeeded in building a model that responded to the needs of indigenous communities and worked with them to help in matters particularly to do with economic development.
That had led to much needed research that helped Maori communities expand into the fields such as the international dairy trade and geothermal energy, said Hikuroa.
As a result of the funding cut, this year could see the last biennial International Indigenous Development Research Conference hosted by Nga Pae o te Maramatanga.
In 2012, more than 400 researchers and academics from around the world gathered to discuss issues under three themes: Optimizing Indigenous Economic Wellbeing; Healthy and Thriving Indigenous Families; and Enhancing Indigenous Distinctiveness.
“What we’re trying to do is create good outcomes for communities,” said Hikuroa, acknowledging that its broad-based goal made it difficult for academic review panels to determine whether its research qualified for continued funding.
Messages of support for Nga Pae o te Maramatanga had been coming in from around the world, he said.
New Zealand academics, political parties and scientists have condemned the decision to exclude the institution from government funding.
The New Zealand Association of Scientists (NZAS) issued a statement last week saying that Nga Pae o Te Maramatanga had a strong case “that its goals are simply incommensurate” with any other Centers of Research Excellence.
NZAS president Dr. Nicola Gaston said in the statement that the fact that Maori researchers had struggled to be included in the government’s science research goals was “a disgrace and an embarrassment.”[db:内容2]