Understanding why Rongoā is important in NZ's history and culture.

Understanding why Rongoā is important in NZ's history and culture.

Dean Fountain

This Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga Kia Tō Kia Tipu - Seeding Excellence project started with a clear desire and intention to inform and bring Rongoā study participants and researchers together in a way that serves the needs of  both communities. It is expected that the guidelines released will not only protect Rongoā Māori practitioners, but also provide some guidance for the wider research community (both Māori and non-Māori) when conducting research in this area.
Donna Kerridge, study participant and Rongoā Māori healer is hopeful that the CERLS guidelines will help consolidate the gifts and abilities, skills and experience necessary to honour the sharing of different world views and that they will facilitate a journey of empowering and informing people, that gives effect to the guideline’s importance and practical value in today’s more responsive research climate.
Project lead investigator Dr Amohia Boulton, from Whakauae Research for Māori Health & Development expressed her desire that these guidelines will “provide a strategic framework and promote research that will be culturally, methodologically and ethically appropriate for all parties involved”.
Whilst the project team believes that the CERLS guidelines will stimulate ongoing discussion and contemplation about all the issues identified, this is very much just the beginning and there have been many questions raised in this project that still need to be addressed.
It is considered imperative that new models, paradigms and frameworks are found that will allow Rongoā Māori to be treated as the taonga it is, even if not currently fully understood by science, medicine or research and which will ensure that the future generations can feel secure that Rongoā Māori is a taonga that continues to be treasured and protected in the years to come.


Who will benefit from these guidelines? Rongoā Māori will benefit most from the CERLS guidelines. Rongoā Māori has a focus of the holistic treatment of all aspects of a person, as well as their whānau (family), spiritual associations and the/ their environment. This approach is sorely missing in the scientific and medical sectors. In many projects the totality of Māori cultural values and the traditions of Rongoā are frequently overlooked in favour of those parts that are easily identified and scientifically studied, and which provide financial gain. The CERLS guidelines work to ensure Rongoā in its entirety is understood and considered in all Rongoā research. These guidelines benefit specifically from Māori healer consultation, which has been lacking in some Rongoā research efforts to date. In alignment with the Treaty of Waitangi, both Māori and Pākehā stand to benefit from research that includes the opinions and perspectives of both cultures, not just one or the other.



For those who are unfamiliar with the tenets of Rongoā Māori, we provide a statement describing several elements of Rongoā Māori here.

However, there is so much more to Rongoā than can be covered in these guidelines, and it will take a lifetime to truly learn. While we acknowledge that Rongoā includes the environment, ecology, Māori cosmology, the atua (Māori gods), wairua, the ancestors and tikanga (protocols), as well as the healing practices, principles, values and traditional knowledge, we provide a brief description below as gifted from one of our participants,

Donna Kerridge states:

Rongoā Māori is commonly represented as:

• Mirimiri and romiromi (bodywork/deep tissue massage)

• Rongoā rākau or wai rākau (plant medicines/herbal remedy)

• Matakite (seer, gift of second sight, clairvoyance)

• Karakia and Wairua (prayer/spirituality)

Mirimiri and Romiromi focus on soft tissue manipulation or joint mobilisation, but they are also much more than that. Mirimiri is about soothing the soul and connecting to energy beyond ourselves to invoke healing. Romiromi is about activating deep within, to every cell in our body so that our connections to the natural world flow freely.

Rongoā rākau or wai rākau include herbal remedies made from plants but these are not given in isolation. It is also about understanding the connections that create a vibrant community within the bush and about tuning our skills to know when something is not right and how to correct it.

Matakite is about tapping into our library of knowledge and wisdom that exists beyond the veil.

Karakia includes prayer and much more. It’s about stilling ourselves, clearing ourselves so that we are able to see and hear clearly, learn effectively, focus on the now and channel wairua. Rongoā Māori is so much more than a simple list of modalities.

It is:

• A way of understanding our world and how to heal it;

• A way of living that recognises the web of connections that exist between all things; and

• It’s about strengthening our connections to our whenua. Rongoā Māori teaches us that when we know how to heal a tree, we will know how to heal ourselves. If the bark on a tree is damaged, we make a bandage to protect the tree from the elements and invading diseases. We use the soil below it which is rich with all the good things needed just for that tree, to inoculate it and protect it from potential invaders. We can do the same for our skin with a plaster of angiangi (Usnea barbata) or kanono (Coprosma grandifolia).

When we know how to restore our wetlands and swamps, so that water can flow freely through the plants and bogs that filter the water before returning it clean to our waterways, we will come to understand the importance of both our waterways and our kidneys and how to better care for them.

Rongoā Māori understands that everything that exists has a cause and an effect upon everything else. We refer to this as wairua, the invisible connections that bind all things in this world. It is important to realise that everything we do, say or feel has an impact on the wellbeing of others. A cold shoulder or momentary look of disdain can ripple through the lives of many like a pebble in a pond. Our connections permeate all aspects of our lives. Let the ripples we create be from a simple act of kindness, a welcomed smile or a hand extended in friendship. Rongoā doesn’t stop and start at the clinic door, healing touches others in all that we do, say and feel. The simple act of acknowledging those we pass us can change someone’s day and ultimately their health and wellbeing (D. Kerridge, personal communication, February 27, 2017).


Whilst Rhayne does not promote its products as being Rongoā or benefit from any discussions/intimations of "healing".  We do appreciate others beliefs and support any discussions about the traditions and cultural aspects of Rongoā Māori.


We at Rhayne cannot promote any of our products as having a healing/medicinal benefit without being approved by "scientists".  Whilst we know, having been demonstrated by local Maori healers the positive affects of horopito and kawakawa in particular, we must by law having scientific evidence.  Hence, we fully support CERLS guidelines and promote their concerns.


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