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Aboriginal Australians teach iwi how to battle wildfires

Natasha Hill

Ngāti Kurī relearning wildfire prevention techniques from visiting Girringun Aboriginal corporation.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Ngāti Kurī is relearning ancient knowledge to prepare for the future.

The iwi has just had a visit from group of traditional Aboriginal rangers, who made the journey to Te Hāpua to share their expertise on preventing wildfires.

The rangers are from an Australian company called Girringun Aboriginal corporation, which works on the preservation and protection of cultural sites and land.

Fire expert Michael George said they are helping the northland iwi, Ngāti Kurī, implement fire burning by sharing 60 years of their indigenous knowledge.

“We use back burn and cool burn to protect cultural sites and everything like that. If the wildfires are coming towards you, we use back burn. When the two fires come together, it’ll null and void both fires. It’ll put it out. This is why we use fire against fire.”

Another expert, Cindy-Lou Tongo, said it was important that both groups were able to share their experiences when caring for the land because of the similar terrain between the two countries.

“It’ll control their wildfires and so their regrowth of their native plants and grass will come back. It mitigates the weeds.”

Researcher Katerina Pihera-Ridge hopes this kaupapa will help to reignite the fire to tiakai (care) for the whenua.

“Ngāti Kurī can see how planning for this approach is really important today and, with our changing climate, we really need to think about how we can harness these tools of old that we once had in our kete.”

Hero image: Ngāti Kuri hope to battle fires using indigenous knowledge. Photo / Te Ao News

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