By Rosemary Rangitauira 29/09/2021

Scion has appointed Dr Tanira Kingi (Ngāti Whakaue, Te Arawa), who’s currently working with Māori landowners to find alternative ways to use their land, as its newest Emeritus Scientist.

Scion’s former Research Leader in Primary Industry Systems is an agricultural economist with 30-years-experience working in the primary industry sector.

Tanira says the current industry infrastructure for meat, milk and logging is taxing on the environment.

“I see Māori landowners having a leadership role to change the status quo for the country because their focus is different to other landowners. Māori want to make the best decisions for current generations based on their responsibilities handed down to them by their tūpuna (ancestors). While at the same time being accountable to future generations; their children and mokopuna (grandchildren), who will judge their decisions.”

Tanira and his team are working with land trusts and entities in Rotorua, Taupō and the East Coast of the North Island to model scenarios for alternative land use options that may work for their location, interests, capability and capacity.

“Intensive agricultural production systems produce several negative impacts to the land, water, and to the air – emitting greenhouse gases, a major contributor to global warming. The agricultural sector accounts for just under half of the total greenhouse gas emissions in this country and that’s because we’ve got too many cows.”

An example, taking into account local climate and transportation to nearby packhouses, is kiwifruit growing.

Regional and national policy and regulation changes including the National Policy Statement for Freshwater (NPSFM) and Te Mana o te Wai are also another reason Tanira is focused on alternative land uses.

“I want to prepare landowners for the future. What they were doing 10 years ago might have been acceptable, but the world has shifted. The world now expects the production of timber, meat and milk to have a minimal effect on the land. No one will change if they don’t have an alternative.”

Tanira encourages academics and researchers to help find solutions to develop new production systems and value chains that minimise environmental impacts while providing sustainable returns to landowners.

“My message to taiohi (young people) considering this field is not to accept our current industry practices as suitable for the future of this country. We’ve come from a hundred years of agricultural sector development, and it doesn’t mean we have another century to improve these practices. We barely have 10 years. There is an urgency now for science, economics, social sciences and mātauranga Māori to come together and show leadership not only in improving farming practices but also providing options for farmers. We need to demonstrate to the Government why agriculture infrastructure needs investment to reduce impacts on the environment.”

Tanira says the primary sector is a major revenue earner for Aotearoa but unfortunately it produces the most damage to the land and water.

 Bonus read

Dr Tanira Kingi has always been interested in working on the land. He started his career in forestry and sawmilling in the late 1970s and in the 1980s worked in orchard management.

In the 1990s, he returned to university to complete a degree in agricultural business at Massey in Palmerston North which he completed in 1992 before working as a consultant with Agriculture NZ. He then undertook his PhD and explored collective land ownership in Fiji through the Australian National University.

You can read more about that research here.

Amongst Tanira’s mahi he has co-authored the following papers called:

Tanira acknowledges former Massey Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Robert Anderson, and Professor Warren Parker who was also at Massey, for guiding him to his PhD.

“Professor Anderson pointed out that not having a PhD would limit my career options. He really encouraged me to look at doing it.”

“And one day at the Palmerston North swimming pool, Professor Parker was marking student papers while keeping an eye on his children and I was there reading a journal article I printed out so I could read it while watching my kids, who were in the same swimming lesson as Professor Parker’s children.” he laughs.

He says the coincidental encounter changed the path of his life and led him to join Massey University as a lecturer.

*Photo supplied by Scion.