Grant to develop a 'living archive'

Richard Walter
Richard Walter
University of Otago archaeologist Prof Richard Walter is ''absolutely delighted'' the university has received a $176,397 grant to develop a ''living archive'' for the Blenheim-linked Rangitane o Wairau tribal grouping.

This was one of a series of national grants totalling $2.4 million, recently announced by the Government, from the Te Punaha Hihiko Vision Matauranga Capability Fund.

This fund seeks to develop people and organisations undertaking research that supports key themes in the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's ''Vision Matauranga'' policy.

This policy aims to unlock the innovation potential of Maori knowledge for the wider benefits, including environmental and economic, of New Zealand.

Prof Walter said the grant would support a partnership initiative involving the Otago anthropology and archaeology department and Rangitane o Wairau.

The university already has a memorandum of understanding with the iwi and Prof Walter will meet senior iwi representatives in Blenheim today to discuss how to develop the initiative.

He is also involved in a major multidisciplinary research project which strives to learn more about the first New Zealanders and to understand the key role of the Wairau Bar in the ''systematic colonisation of New Zealand by Polynesians''.

The Wairau Bar, at Cloudy Bay, Marlborough, in the northeastern South Island, was ''well-known among archaeologists internationally'' as an early site of human settlement in New Zealand, he said yesterday.

Prof Walter is the founding director of the Southern Pacific Archaeological Research (Spar), the Otago department's archaeological consultancy unit.

The initiative between the university and the iwi will involve developing a geographical information system (GIS) - a computerised spatial information system which will allow many types of data to be readily accessed through a ''geographical interface based on maps''.

This knowledge base will cover aspects including oral history, taonga (treasures), archaeology, and f historical records.

A Rangitane researcher will work with the Otago Spar research team in Dunedin, developing the systems and protocols for the GIS system, and a Spar researcher will work with Rangitane in Blenheim.

The aim was for the iwi to have ''greater capacity to manage its information and research capability'' and to help with iwi initiatives in sustainable management and cultural development, Prof Walter said.

• Prof Walter's research on ''the archaeology of New Zealand's cultural origins,'' was boosted last year by a $773,913 grant from the Marsden Fund.

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