Te auahatanga o te Māori Māori innovation

Mātauranga helps inform your work with te taiao (the environment). Combining Māori and Pākehā knowledge will help create outcomes that best suit your whenua and whānau.

Māori have a unique relationship with whenua. It provides a connection to whānau, an opportunity to enact kaitiakitanga on the land and creates a sense of wellbeing and purpose.

A connection with the whenua and understanding of interactions in te taiao gives you the opportunity to be innovative and use Māori knowledge to do what’s best for the whenua.


The Maramataka is the Māori lunar calendar. It doesn’t follow a Gregorian calendar because it doesn’t use months, but instead aligns with moon phases. It’s based on te taiao and changes in the tides, stars, whenua and moon. The Maramataka was developed by Māori through a deep understanding of nature and the changing seasons.

The Maramataka observes changes in the natural world. It’s not just used by Māori, scientists around the world recognise its value too. Knowledge provided by Māori tupuna is in stories and traditions that teach us about the environment.

By watching the environment, the Maramataka was developed to guide natural tasks like fishing, collecting seeds and harvesting. Each night has a name and information about suitable tasks for the day. Activities are guided by moon phases and the energy each phase gives.

You could use the Maramataka to help you decide when to plant trees and complete other jobs for your ngahere.

A good way to start is to observe nature. Look for each phase of the moon and see how you feel during each one. See which days are good for planting, and which days are better for resting or planning.


One of the most important times in the Maramataka is Matariki.

Matariki signals the Māori new year, and is the Māori name for a cluster of stars also known as the Pleiades. The stars come up mid-winter and rise and fall each day. Matariki is an abbreviation of nga mata o te ariki Tāwhirimātea, which means the eyes of the god of the wind.

The god of the wind, Tāwhirimātea, became angry when his siblings separated his parents Ranginui and Papatūānuku. He threw his eyes into the heavens and created the Matariki stars. Now, Matariki is considered by some as a time to acknowledge the dead and release their spirits to become stars.

Matariki is also a signal for planting certain vegetables, like kūmara. It’s a time for celebration, togetherness and information sharing.

Although a long-standing Māori tradition, Matariki started being celebrated more widely since the late 1990s. Matariki is now a nationwide holiday that Aotearoa will celebrate each year.

Matariki events

Matariki celebrations are a good time to gather and share knowledge. If you want to plant trees on your whenua, you could attend a Matariki event about ngahere to learn more about it. Get together to share knowledge, talk about what you will plant and start to plan.

Check your local council's website for Matariki events in your area.

Matariki resources

Professor Rangi Matamua, of Tūhoe gives public lectures about Matariki and Māori Astronomy. Listen to a podcast of one of his talks on the Te Papa website.


Rongoā is a traditional Māori healing system which incorporates the use of native plant-based remedies (Rongoā rākau), massage (mirimiri) and spiritual healing through prayer (karakia).

Rongoā plants are used to enhance the welfare of the people. They heal the whenua and protect the other trees and plants within the ngahere.


Rāhui is another way to take care of the environment. A rāhui is put in place when something happens that means the whenua, ngahere, awa or moana needs to recover.

A rāhui restricts access to an area. Instead of people trying to fix the land and sometimes making it worse, a rāhui allows nature time to fix itself.

Using mātauranga in your business 

Working with the whenua means looking at the bigger picture. It’s about understanding the interactions that take place, and leaving the whenua in a better place for the next generation.

Mātauranga provides an opportunity for innovation. Thinking about the long-term effect a project may have on the whenua can prevent damage.

See how the Māori community in Ruatāhuna is working to restore and sustain its forests.

Next steps

Visit our species section to read about different trees and rongoā plants.