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Research Papers

Issue date: 
NZ earthquakes
Paper number: 
48 (EQC 13/U650)

Mapping waiata koroua (traditional prose) of the Tarawera Eruption, 1886; and its relevance to contemporary natural hazards preparedness and response

Author: Sylvia Hiriwa Tapuke, Massey University (supervised by Professor David Johnston) 

A thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Emergency Management was accepted as a final report and is available on requestplease contact for access.


The Eruption of Mount Tarawera which occurred in 1886 had a significant impact on Māori tribes residing in the central North Island of Aotearoa New Zealand, during this period. This region of New Zealand remains an area of significant volcanic risk.  Iwi such as Ngāti Haka Patuheuheu, a distal tribe currently resident within the region have an increased risk of being exposed to major volcanic hazard events.  Ngāti Haka Patuheuheu, an iwi that is rurally situated within the region, retains strong cultural values, tikanga (practices) and taonga (waiata and pūrākau) that pertain to assessing and managing volcanic risks.  A Kaupapa Māori-based research project was conducted to develop a culturally relevant and responsive volcanic risk information resource that may be drawn on to inform Ngāti Haka-Patuheuheu volcanic emergency management planning.

A kaupapa Māori research and ethical framework based on Māori cultural imperatives formed the ‘Te Whetūmārama Framework’. This provided the basis for data collection and recruitment of participants. Research participants, Ngati Haka-Patuheuheu iwi members were recruited through marae hui, Facebook, and kōriporipo, recommended through whānau knowledge.  Research data was gathered through two wānanga, two hui and six formal semi-structured interviews.  Volcanic risk information resources based on Hakopa’s mapping mōteātea work, including a mapped waiata were developed from data contained in two waiata (song) about the Tarawera Eruption. The first, ‘He waiata tohu mate mo Tarawera’, an adaptation of a waiata by Te Kooti, and the second, ‘Tērā te Auahi’, a response waiata following the Tarawera Eruption by an unknown composer. The kaupapa Māori based volcanic risk information resource was developed by the researcher based upon the two waiata (song) about the Tarawera Eruption, through the experience of Ngati Haka-Patuheuheu, and neighbouring tribes.  

Five key findings were found: Firstly, the resource conveys that Te Kooti used the vehicle of waiata to communicate volcanic risk and readiness, prior to the Tarawera Eruption. Secondly, Te Kooti also utilised his community networks to support affected tribes by his advocacy role for food from the government, by initiating community fundraising and leading the safe evacuation of two tribes following the Eruption. Third, the resource demonstrates that waiata is a vehicle to communicate psycho-social effects of the Tarawera Eruption upon the individual and the collective. Fourth, historical waiata contains traditional knowledge, values and practices of disaster events, which can contribute to a broader understanding of volcanic risk, and consequently preparedness activities.  Finally, waiata provides another culturally responsive approach to engaging communities usually disengaged from the emergency management sector.


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