Scientists will be descending on the Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley over the next two years as part of an in-depth investigation linking the science with mātauranga Māori.
The Whakarewarewa Village Charitable Trust and the MacDiarmid Institute of Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology have announced a new partnership to use materials science to better understand the natural colours of rocks and waters at the Whakarewarewa Village and surrounding areas.
This joint project will see MacDiarmid Institute researchers partnering with the trust to apply materials science analysis to geothermal rocks and waters.
The work will include chemical analysis of trace elements, and the study of the crystalline structures of the materials.
Welcoming the partnership, Whakarewarewa Village Charitable Trust chief executive Blair Millar said the project would deliver valuable information resources and case studies that recognised aspects of science particularly relevant to the Whakarewarewa geothermal system.
There has already been a lot of mapping work done in the valley, with drones and infrared drones flying over the village, Millar said.
"By working with traditional knowledge around the colours in the rocks and waters of Whakarewarewa and surrounding areas, this project will provide new knowledge where skills and experiences can be shared with schools, and relevant curriculum-linked activities based on the themes of mātauranga and science in practice."
The trust will be hosting wananga with people in the village during the research, to include them in that process.
"We will incorporate the legends that have been handed down from generation to generation and the Māori cultural stories about where the colours come from," Millar said.
"It's about bringing the stories, the legends, the waiata and the science together."
MacDiarmid Institute co-director associate professor Justin Hodgkiss, who grew up in Rotorua, said the project would integrate scientific data with mātauranga Māori, to gain a better understanding of the formation of natural colours of rocks at geothermal vents and deposits from geothermal waters of the Whakarewarewa Village and surrounding areas.
"The project will incorporate and explore synergies between the two knowledge systems' mātauranga Māori and western science."
Both Millar and Dr Hodgkiss said the collaboration had a shared long-term vision by understanding how the geothermal system can be supported through science research.
An informed understanding of the current value and growth potential of tourism resources provides a strong foundation for strategic decisions, relationships and alliances that anchor Māori as key drivers of economic change within the Waiariki economy Aotearoa and globally.
GNS Science and Victoria University of Wellington are both partner organisations working under the umbrella of the MacDiarmid Institute.