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Promoting and using mātauranga Māori to engage, research, educate, and advocate for the environment.

We Are The Watchful Ones

Imagine a world where nature is in balance. Where we honour our connection to Papatūānuku, Mother Earth. Where we remember our role as kaitiaki, guardians of te taiao, our natural world. This is the vision of Te Tira Whakamātaki, the Watchful Ones.

Through community engagement, research, education, and advocacy, we mobilise people to re-establish their relationship with nature and their cultures. 

Who We Are

Te Tira Whakamātaki (TTW) is a Māori environmental not-for-profit that translates to “the watchful ones” in English, as we use our skills and positions to seek out, empower, privilege, and protect Indigenous peoples and solutions in the fight to protect nature. In this, we address one of the most pressing threats to the climate and our ability to thrive in it – the diversity of life on earth (biodiversity).

Based in Aotearoa – New Zealand, we are active in Māori communities but also have strong connections to other Indigenous communities across the globe.


Our projects, programmes, research, and policy work share the collective intentions of healing our relationship with the environment and growing Indigenous solutions for a better planet.

Our Story

In 2015 Māori scientists Dr Amanda Black (soil scientist), Dr Nick Waipara (plant pathologist) and Melanie Mark-Shadbolt (social scientist) came together to test the need for a Māori Biosecurity Network. They travelled the country talking to whānau, hapū and iwi about the lack of Māori participants in the biosecurity system and the exclusion of mātauranga from biosecurity solutions. Collectively, they recognised the immediate and pressing need to bring people together.

In 2016, they created a Biosecurity Network to connect Māori communities working to protect Aotearoa’s biological resources from biosecurity risks and threats, like the potentially devastating plant disease myrtle rust. This was a coalition of the willing where biosecurity information and research was shared with hapori and entities across the country. 

This Biosecurity Network was officially formed in 2017 and gifted the name Te Tira Whakamātaki, the watchful ones, by Matua Kevin Prime and Dr Jamie Ataria. This was around the time that myrtle rust hit the shores of Aotearoa New Zealand, and because of the pre-emptive work Te Tira Whakamātaki had done across the country, the network was catapulted into the national limelight as it worked to support hapū/iwi respond. Later that year, the National Iwi Chairs Forum, a collective of 70+ iwi entities, had mandated Te Tira Whakamātaki as their biosecurity technicians.

Te Tira Whakamātaki Limited (the Company) was formed in 2018, and in 2019 Te Tira Whakamātaki Foundation was created, it obtained charitable status, took control of the Company, and expanded the organisations brief to cover the protection of all of Aotearoa New Zealand’s taonga species and natural heritage. We have operated under this structure since then and have expanded our mandate to include biodiversity. Within this, we take guidance from our Kāhui Rangatira and use our work to promote and appropriately use mātauranga Māori, platform kaitiaki and tohunga, support Māori-led research, decision-making, and policy change.

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Te Tira Whakamātaki's work is grounded by te ao Māori and Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and actioned by six values that we believe represent who we are and what we stand for.

Ō Mātou Tāngata - Kāhui Rangatira

Our People - Council of Elders

Te Tira Whakamātaki is lead and guided by a Kāhui Kaumātua. Our Kāhui comprises elders whose knowledge and wisdom is vital for ensuring we stay the course and do the work required of us.

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Ō Mātou Tāngata – Tarahitī

Our People - Co-founders & Trustees

We were established by three co-founders and continue to be led by our trustees and board members. They are an integral part of our history and structure. Without these individuals, Te Tira Whakamātaki would not exist.

Ō Mātou Tāngata – Kaimahi

Our People – Staff

We are comprised of Māori, Pākehā and tauiwi staff from across Aotearoa. Each have unique specialities and, together, we form a strong team that allows us to work comfortably in nearly every environmental field.

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