I recently attended the Maori GIS conference in Auckland, New Zealand. While this event targeted the Māori community as they continue to map their taonga, we all gained an insight into how place and geography links us to the land.
A big and special mention need to go to the Google Earth Outreach team who set the tone of the event from the start with their workshop. Google is a juggernaut in web search engines, but they also exposed to us many ways of engaging with our stakeholders through software, storage and visibility in the cloud using a mix of different tools.
Commercial GIS Vendors have struggled in recent years to get a mobile GIS solution for standard asset capture in the field. These solutions have become custom-built and utilize web services and complex security to saveguard access to enterprise IT environments. However, Google has teamed up with Washington State University to give field workers a complete mobile solution using it’s technology and without requiring a live data connection in the field. ODK Collect provides a simple geospatial access capture solution without significant capital outlay.
The kaupapa for the rest of the conference focused on how technology can be used to help link whānau, hapū and iwi to the land. It is easier to record physical evidence of places and landmarks. But it is more difficult to assess and record the importance of mauri on the landscape such as whakapapa, tūpuna migration, awa, whenua and moana.
Where Central and Local Government see dollars and economic gain, Māori view mauri in the landscape, a quality that is is proving to be difficult to quantify and qualify using standard maps and web mapping. Mauri is the spiritual significance of objects to individuals and Iwi.
The challenge to us all is to explore new ways of using the technology to make a difference in to the way we interact with land and the tangata whenua. I surf the ngaru, I paddle the awa with my waka but I cannot physically interact with groundwater. Yet, groundwater is currently an endangered life force to the future generations of all New Zealanders. We first need an understanding in the importance of groundwater in our landscape to be able to communicate it’s degradation over time.
I believe that the Māori GIS conference has provided a wake up call for the mainstream geospatial community as we search for innovative ways to communicate our findings of our landscape to all concerned.