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Tumu Whakarae | Message from Chief Executive

Paul Atkins, Tumu Whakarae Chief Executive

E rau rangatira mā, tēnā koutou katoa.

We are responding to the current situation in relation to the letter, ‘In defence of science’, published in The Listener in July 2021, and the various actions and reactions that have ensued.

Firstly, we are deeply concerned at what has been playing out, as I am sure you all are. Please be assured that Royal Society Te Apārangi is taking the high level of local and international comment on matters related to the letter very seriously.  We are acutely aware of the potential for significant damage to be inflicted in multiple directions, not least to relationships and our ability to have a balanced and informed dialogue about important questions for the future of our country.

Media have reported that the Society has received complaints about the Fellows who contributed to the letter, with premature speculation about the outcome of the Society’s Complaints Procedures. Taken out of context, these comments have subsequently gained traction across a number of international networks. Whilst this has stimulated some considered correspondence from local and international commentators, it has also resulted in a barrage of frequently vitriolic and abusive messages from other individuals and groups with what appear to be quite different and unconstructive agendas.

The situation has developed to a point that is profoundly unhelpful for discussing and addressing the issues originally raised in The Listener letter over four months ago. We are continuing our work programme to deepen understanding of mātauranga by launching a new initiative ‘Mātauranga Māori and its Interface with Science’, to be run through our expert advice function, co-led by Professor Rangi Matamua FRSNZ, School of Māori Knowledge Te Pūtahi-a-Toi, Massey University. The aim will be to further explore and deepen the Society’s, its members’ and hapori communities’ understanding of mātauranga and its relevance to science and vice versa. The work will seek input from a wide range of experts, networks and perspectives.

Royal Society Te Apārangi remains committed to supporting science and the principles of freedom of speech. The Society continues to support, foster and recognise research within multiple knowledge domains and continues to uphold the value of mātauranga Māori, mana whenua, te ao Māori and a commitment to te tiriti in practice. It is important that we get the current discussion back onto a helpful and constructive basis that better serves Aotearoa New Zealand’s interests.

We are appreciative for your tautoko support, and welcome your involvement, as we move this important mahi work forward.

Ngā manaakitanga and ngā mihi o te wā season’s greetings.


Paul Atkins
Tumu Whakarae Chief Executive