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Guarding our environment

Tihei Taiao is an environmental series that aims to promote Matauranga Maori and Te Reo Maori while inspiring people to learn more about the taiao (environment). Presented by Graeme Atkins (Ngati Porou), Riki Bennett (Te Arawa, Ngati Porou) and Tame Malcolm (Ngati Tarawhai, Ngati Pikiao, Te Arawa), these Kaitiaki Taiao (caretakers of the environment) want to share their knowledge so others can connect to and learn more about Aotearoa’s indigenous biodiversity.

I learnt my matauranga in the field from my elders, from my grandmother, and my papa across the river in Rangitukia,” East Coast Kaitiaki taiao and veteran DoC Ranger Graeme Atkins said.

“The Taiao is my passion and I hope people learn how special and unique our native plants are; some only live in this country so if we lose them, we lose them from the world.”

Aotearoa is home to nearly 4000 unique plant and animal species some of which are endangered or at risk of becoming extinct.

Tihei Taiao was created to archive these taonga (treasures) along with the traditional Maori knowledge about them to preserve it for generations to come.

Director Talisa Kupenga says the idea for the series came about when she and producer Fiona Apanui-Kupenga were at a first aid course.

“One of the guidelines expressed by the tutor was ‘don't eat native plants, we have many poisonous ones and they can be life threatening'.

“This is true if you incorrectly identify, prepare and consume a plant, but it's that type of mainstream messaging that shows what has been filtered into our everyday lives, and accepted as ‘the norm' — a consequence of us not knowing our taiao as well as our tipuna once did.

“I knew people who did know how to prepare plants safely so I wanted to give them a platform to share that.”

Tihei Taiao also features Tame Malcom (Ngati Tarawhai, Ngati Pikiao, Te Arawa) who specialises in biosecurity and grew up learning about the taiao from his uncles.

Riki Bennett (Te Arawa, Ngati Porou) spends time educating youth about the environment, the Maori calendar and how Maori used the ngahere (forest) as a resource.

The 30-episode series is produced by Te Amokura Productions with funding from Te Mangai Paho.

You can watch it on the Te Amokura Facebook page every Friday.

Only found in NZ: This is white ngutukaka in flower. It is one of the most endangered plants in New Zealand. Pictures by Tihei Taiao
Special: This is a red ngutuku/kakabeak in flower. It is one of the most endangered plants in New Zealand. Wild Ngutukaka can be found in several locations near Ruatoria on the East Coast. Maori used ngutukaka for gifting and trading, the unripe seedpods can be eaten and are high in protein.
Koromiko flower: A bee feasts on a koromiko flower. Koromiko can be used to aid upset stomachs.
CARETAKER: Graeme Atkins is a kaitiaki taiao who has an extensive amount of matauranga Maori (Maori knowledge) about native plants and their uses. Here he explains the uses for Koromiko in the Tihei Taiao series.
Taiao knowledge: Riki Bennett also features in the Tihei Taiao series where he shares his knowledge on certain native plants.
Kaitiaki: Tame Malcolm is another knowledgable source of maturanga Maori and shares it in the Tihei Taiao series.