App to assist with heritage, whakapapa

Unlocking information on different iwi and hapu will hopefully help New Zealanders with Maori heritage strengthen their identity, the creator of a planned database says.

Otago Polytechnic IT student Kane Dunn (32) is taking the first steps to create an ambitious ''Aotearoa App'', which would be publicly available, and free.

It would help people construct their family tree.

Mr Dunn has won the Matawaka Scholarship, developed between the polytechnic and Ngai Tahu, to begin the work.

The scholarship covers a year of tuition fees.

The app would contain an interactive map, in Maori and in English, with information about places.

Second-year IT student at Otago Polytechnic Kane Dunn wants to create an "Aotearoa App'', revealing information in English and Maori about different places, and helping people with Maori heritage build their family tree. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
Second-year IT student at Otago Polytechnic Kane Dunn wants to create an "Aotearoa App'', revealing information in English and Maori about different places, and helping people with Maori heritage build their family tree. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
It would also allow people to trace their hapu and obtain information when they searched by their family name and place of origin.

''It would just help everyone get a sense of belonging,'' Mr Dunn said.

His vision was it would ''celebrate Maoridom'', and as well as helping individuals he hoped having the map would also help with tourism.

Growing up in the Long Beach area, near Dunedin, Mr Dunn said he had always had an interest in family history and was inspired by his grandfather's extensive historical knowledge.

An example of a local place which would be perfect to feature on a map was the graveyard at Purakaunui, which was ''just hidden away''.

''It's nice for people to respect that as a sacred place, just to know it's there,'' he said.

As an adult, Mr Dunn began researching his forebears in Northland, who belonged to Nga Puhi and Ngati Kahu - and he said it took him a lot of work trawling through records to get information.

He hoped people would find it easier to learn about their family's past from the app, and that having the information would lead to them becoming confident enough to introduce themselves on a marae.

Mr Dunn had been collating information for the database for about two years before receiving the scholarship, and he was expecting the app to take a long time.

He had had strong support from the polytechnic's Maori centre Te Punaka Owheo, and was in the process of learning te reo himself - which would help when it came to getting first-hand information from different iwi and hapu.

elena.mcphee@odt.co.nz

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