Ailsa Smith was born in Gisborne and was educated at primary schools in Puha, Te Karaka and Ormond, and at Makarika on the East Coast. She attended Gisborne High School and continued her studies at the University of Canterbury where she graduated with a B.A. in 1989 and an MA (Hons) in 1992. She is a senior lecturer at Lincoln University. She completed her PhD in 2001. She writes miscellaneous non-fiction papers and publications. Some annotations below have been provided by Dr Ailsa Smith and are in quotations marks.
- Correspondence from Dr Ailsa Smith, 13 Feb. and 28 Aug. 1998, 21 Sept. 2004 and 30 Mar. 2005.
- "Notes from Michael King’s Talk to CMSA Members." Te Karanga: Canterbury Māori Studies Association 3.1 (May 1987): 30-32.
- Smith provides a summary of Michael King’s talk to the Canterbury Māori Studies Association on March 26, 1987, in which King discusses his introduction into taha Māori and the respective merits and pitfalls of Pakeha researching Māori subjects.
- "Kei A Wai Te Moana? - The Human Face Of Resource Management." Aotearoa/New Zealand Women and Politics Network Newsletter Ed. B. Hayward. (July/Aug. 1993): 3-5.
- Drawing from a draft letter written by her great-grandfather Te Kahui Kararehe of Rahotu to the Government in the late 19th century concerning the enforcement of a rahui to protect mussels at Papanui, Smith discusses the events in Taranaki since the 1860s which led to Taranaki tribes being labelled ‘rebels’, land being confiscated, and intertribal tensions that erupted into disregard for the rahui placed by Te Kahui on immature mussels at Papanui.
- "Tohu Kakahi 1828-1907." Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Vol. 2: 1870-1900. Wellington, N.Z.: Bridget Williams Books; Dept. of Internal Affairs, 1993. 541-542.
- A biography of Taranaki prophet Tohu Kakahi who with Te Whiti provided leadership in the pacifist protest at Parihaka against crown land abuses in Taranaki.
- Cross-Cultural Mediation: Guidelines For Those Who Interface With Iwi. Information Paper No. 46. Canterbury, N.Z.: Centre for Resource Management, Lincoln University, 1993.
- Co-authored with C. Blackford.
- Songs And Stories Of Taranaki: From The Writings Of Te Kahui Kararehe. Ed., trans. and commentary by Ailsa Smith. Christchurch, N.Z.: Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies, University of Canterbury, 1993.
- Smith writes that this publication includes some of the writings from a collection of manuscripts written by Smith’s great-grandfather Poukohatu Te Kahui Kararehe and his brother Taurua Pororaiti Minarapa. Smith adds that each of the eleven chapters ‘consists of one or more Māori texts and translation, each with [their] own introduction’ with notes at the conclusion of each chapter. Smith states that in the writings ‘Taurua appears to have concentrated on waiata and imaginative narrative, while Te Kahui recorded more in the way of whakapapa, tribal histories and political comment.’
- "Unemployment, Work And Health: Opportunities For Healthy Public Policy." The New Zealand Medical Journal 108.998 (26 Apr. 1995): 138-140.
- Co-authored with Pauline Barnett and Philippa Howden-Chapman.
- "Swimming, Surfing, and the Horse that Came Out of the Tide: Some Māori Leisure Activities in Historical Perspective." Proceedings of the Australian and New Zealand Association for Leisure Studies (ANZALS). Second Conference - Leisure Connexions, January 17-20, 1995. Ed. C. Simpson and B. Gidlow. Canterbury, N.Z.: Dept. of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, Lincoln U, 1995. 189-191.
- Smith discusses three leisure activities of the Māori - swimming, surfing and horseback riding at the time of European contact - drawing from Kai Tahu, Tuhoe, Taranaki Māori and European sources
- "Non-Violence At Parihaka During New Zealand’s Colonial Period." Legacy and Future of Non-violence. Ed. M. Kumar, Peter Low and Ailsa Smith. New Delhi, India: Gandhi Peace Foundation, 1996. 158-170.
- Co-authored with Peter Low.
- "Who Is That Mountain Standing There? It’s Taranaki..." In ‘The Spiritual And Cultural Significance Of Mountains.’ Edwin Bernbaum. Mountains of the World: A Global Priority. Ed. B. Messerli and J. D. Ives. New York: Parthenon, 1997. 52-53.
- In these notes located in Box 3.3 of Edwin Bernbaum’s essay ‘The spiritual and cultural significance of mountains’, Smith writes of Māori mythology concerning Mount Taranaki and writes of its history since European colonisation when it was renamed Egmont and made into a National Park. Smith notes that after years of persistence Taranaki Māori eventually had the name Taranaki reinstated and the mountain was briefly returned to the Taranaki Māori before being gifted back to the Crown.
- He Ingoa Ngārara: Insects and Spiders. Canterbury, N.Z.: Lincoln UP, 1997.
- ‘In this book the author explores the diversity of traditional Māori names for insects and spiders, and demonstrates their aptness from a visual and auditory point of view.’
- "Te Kahui Kararehe, Wiremu 1846-1904." The Dictionary of the New Zealand Biography. Vol. 4. 1921-1940. Auckland; Wellington, N.Z.: Auckland UP; Dept. of Internal Affairs, 1998. 509-510.
- Smith writes a biographical account of Taranaki leader Te Kahui Kararehe who was a recorder of meetings at Parihaka in the 1870s, conducted correspondence with Percy Smith concerning Taranaki tribal matters, served Māori in Taranaki by donating land for a school at Rahotu to recover land for hapu in his district while an assessor for the Native Land Court and ran hot water spas in Rahotu.
- "Māori And Leisure: A Survey." Time Out? Leisure, Recreation and Tourism in New Zealand and Australia. Ed. H.C. Perkins and G. Cushman. Auckland, N.Z.: Longman, 1998. 51-63.
- "A Māori Sense Of Place? Taranaki Waiata Tangi And Feelings For Place." New Zealand Geographer 60.1 (2004): 12-17.
- ‘Arohirohi Noa "My Spinning Head."’ Journal of the Polynesian Society 113.2 (June 2004): 197-200.
- "Some Whanau Relationships Within Ngāti Haupoto Hapu." MB 208c Unpublished manuscript.
- "Ko Tohu te Matua: The Story Of Tohu Kakahi Of Parihaka." MA thesis. U of Canterbury, 1990.
- "Taranaki Waiata Tangi And Feelings For Place." PhD thesis. Lincoln U, 2001.