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The benefits and barriers to GIS for Māori

Pacey, Huia A.
Fields of Research
A Geographic Information System visually communicates both spatial and temporal analyses and has been available for at least twenty years in New Zealand. Using a Kaupapa Māori Research framework, this research investigates the benefits and barriers for Māori if they were to adopt GIS to assist their development outcomes. Internationally, indigenous peoples who have adopted GIS have reported they have derived significant cultural development benefits, including the preservation and continuity of traditional knowledge and culture. As Māori development continues to expand in an increasing array of corporate, scientific, management and cultural arenas, the level of intensity required to keep abreast of developments has also expanded. GIS has been used by some roopū to assist their contemporary Māori development opportunities; has been suggested as a cost effective method for spatial research for Waitangi Tribunal claims; has supported and facilitated complex textual and oral evidence, and has also been used to assist negotiation and empowerment at both central and local government level. While many successful uses are attributed to GIS projects, there are also precautionary calls made from practitioners regarding the obstacles they have encountered. Overall, whilst traditional knowledge and contemporary technology has been beneficially fused together, in some instances hidden or unforeseen consequences have impeded or imperilled seamless uptake of this new technology. Challenges to the establishment of a GIS range from the theoretical (mapping cultural heritage) to the practical (access to data) to the pragmatic (costs and resources). The multiple issues inherent in mapping cultural heritage, indigenous cartography and, in particular, the current lack of intellectual property rights protection measures, are also potential barriers to successful, long-term integration of GIS into the tribal development matrix. The key impediments to GIS establishment identified by surveyed roopū were lack of information and human resources, and prioritisation over more critical factors affecting tangata whenua. Respondents also indicated they would utilise GIS if the infrastructure was in place and the cost of establishment decreased. Given the large amount of resources to be invested into GIS, and the opportunity to establish safe practices to ensure continuity of the GIS, it is prudent to make informed decisions prior to investment. As an applied piece of Kaupapa Māori research, a tangible outcome in the form of an establishment Guide is presented. Written in a deliberately novice-friendly manner, the Guide traverses fundamental issues surrounding the establishment of a GIS including investment costs and establishment processes.