Nigel Young


YOB: 1965
Experience: Nature Tour Skipper, Boater
Regions: Otago
Interview Location: Dunedin, NZ
Interview Date: 04 December 2015
Post Date: 08 July 2017; Copyright © 2017 Nigel Young and Steve Crawford


CRAWFORD: In a very general sense, can you describe the extent to which you’ve engaged with Māori culture and knowledge - how that might have informed your by knowledge of the world?

YOUNG:  I’d say in relation to nature, and the patterns of nature. That would be somewhere between medium and high. Not very high. In terms of where I get my knowledge from, I think they help me understand nature.

CRAWFORD: Can you help me understand your relationship with Māori culture?

YOUNG: Yeah, I’m really happy talking about this. It is quite a privilege to have had some opportunity to engage with the tangata whenua. It’s something that hadn’t happened to me much through my childhood. I grew up right through childhood as a connected family, you know fifth-generation Wellingtonian, but just small times of input from the Tangata whenua until a neighbour came to live next to our house at Braker Bay. They became friends of the family, and helped install some understanding of the Māori ways. Through those years, my teenage and early twenties, it wasn’t such a big factor for me. It would have been more influential perhaps if I was at a younger age. But what really made a difference for me, was connecting with the Maori on Kapiti Island, and spending time getting to know their island, and some of their history and to be able to interpret that to the visitors to the island, which included tangata whenua, and many New Zealanders who would come to a conservation island for the first time and want to know about the Māori history. There’s extensive Māori history on Kapiti. It had been the living space for Te Rauparaha, a famous New Zealand chief, and this was of much interest to the visitors. So that was a big part of the interpretation that we gave to the visitors to the island. All the visitors had about a half-hour introductory talk, and then would go on walks. There was also an overnight component where they would be hosted with the [Barrett] family. The accommodation was up on the north end of the island, so this was an overnight stay, it would be a day and a night - sometimes a weekend. Showing them the island, and the flora and fauna, and also discussing parts of the history - that’s what I was asked to do. So, this took extensive training to be able to do this task. It took many hours of discussions with their teachers, before I started to work. I worked full-time there, sometimes six or seven days a week doing this work - taking people over to the island, and giving them this interpretation and the overnight thing too, living with them was part of my learning. John’s family, and in particular, John’s sister Amo, they were a big part of my learning of what connected with what. 

CRAWFORD: The culture, the knowledge system …

YOUNG: Yeah. The season, the storm, it calls the fruit, it calls the bird, it calls the insect, it calls the gathering, it calls the story, and the cycles started to become clear to me through these years of interconnectedness. This is so different to science which is often piecemeal and not connected. It doesn't feel so connected. Anyways, that was there.

CRAWFORD: That’s very helpful. It’s going to give readers another dimension to understand the knowledge that you are sharing. Let’s do the same thing with science: where would you put your interaction to the extent that knowledge system has informed your understanding of marine ecosystems generally?

YOUNG: I would say high. 

CRAWFORD: What would you point to, that would put it in the high category?

YOUNG: Through study and through reading of science studies. 

CRAWFORD: You had some formal training. Please tell me about that.

YOUNG: My formal training would be my studies at the University of Victoria, and to an extent here [University of Otago].

CRAWFORD: If I recall, Victoria was a four-year program, first anthropology, then zoology?


CRAWFORD: You have a BSc?

YOUNG: No, a BA. 

CRAWFORD: A baccalaureate and then a one year post graduate diploma. To what degree did non-formal/non-degree experience provide you with science knowledge? What other kinds of activities?

YOUNG: Our work here at Monarch, looking through the seasons for wildlife.

CRAWFORD: Otago Harbour and out off the Heads?

YOUNG: Informal learning from trial and error, being charged with having to find what’s out there.

CRAWFORD: Would you go online looking for natural history or ecology papers? Would you be watching documentaries or sharing resources with other naturalists? 

YOUNG: A little. Particularly with looking up papers, looking up some details. I would certainly target those areas in the media, and be engaged in that conversation of interest. I feel that I am somehow expected to have a bit of knowledge, so I seek the information out. Or if I hear of it, to search and be up-to-speed. 

CRAWFORD: Have you had any experiences where the Monarch was chartered by researchers, or have you ever worked with a research project in some capacity? 

YOUNG: I have in different ways. At Zealandia, the place was full of studies, and I would work taking surveys and collecting data and accompany people to give them access or guide them in ways and monitoring predators/ I would run traplines here at Otakou or Wellington or wherever. Monarch and our other vessel Vivian J is regularly chartered to assist with research projects.

Copyright © 2017 Nigel Young and Steve Crawford