With a national report just released showing 74 per cent of native freshwater species are threatened and the relaxing of plantation forestry rules set to cause more erosion, a hapu collective on the East Coast plans to enhance natural habitat while ensuring families based on the land can make a living.
The third Hikurangi Takiwa Trust hapu wananga of the Tieki Te Taiao o Te Takiwa project was held at Penu Pa near Makarika over the weekend.
Wananga activities included measuring water quality and stream habitat, assessing the impact of soil erosion on land use and waterways, restoring native vegetation and the looking at the environmental impacts of various land uses including farming, forestry and residential settlement.
Sharing stream survey tools and techniques in-situ of the Makatote Stream with students from Te Kura o Makarika, Te Kura o Hiruharama, Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Waiu and Te Parekereke Mokopuna o Hiruharama was the highlight on the first day facilitated by Murray Palmer, Amy-Rose Hardy and Dr Joanne Clapcott, a freshwater scientist with the Cawthron Institute in Nelson.
The Rapid Habitat Assessment (RHA) is a tool developed by Dr Clapcott for stream habitat assessment. It provides a straightforward way for assessors to score and areas that don’t score so well provide a clear focus for restoration efforts.
Wananga participants focused on a monitoring site in the Makatote Stream just below Penu Pa. With an RHA score of 72/100, areas for habitat improvement were readily identified as riparian shade, and adjacent and upstream erosion.
The macroinvertebrate community (stream bugs) index score for the same site was 116.4, just below the threshold for ‘Excellent – clean water’.
“This is especially good for a farm-type stream as we took samples from a range of habitats” said Mr Palmer, who has been monitoring waterways around the district for more than thirty years. “Nearly half of the animals gathered were of the sensitive orders, Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera and Trichoptera, again a very good result.”
Matauranga a hapu was a highlight of the weekend with whakapapa expert Karen Pewhairangi facilitating a role-play with participants of local historical events involving tipuna Te Atau. Nga Kuri Paaka a Uetuhiao, Te Rangitawaea and Kirimamae and their children Rongoitekai, Rongohaere and Wi o Te Rangi.
“We orient ourselves through our shared whakapapa and stories” said project coordinator and local land owner Pia Pohatu. “Our cultural landscape helps us make sense of what is happening in today’s physical landscape and ways we can lead and support current-day landowners and decision-makers with restoration aspirations.”
Advancing an integrated environmental monitoring program for te rohenga o Hikurangi Takiwa was a major milestone for the Trust, that works for the six pa and associated hapu in the area between Mt Hikurangi, Waipiro Bay and Ruatoria.
“We are grateful for the expertise and participation of scientists like Murray, Joanne and Dr Ian Ruru” said Ms Pohatu.
The monitoring program will integrate three key water quality measuring tools – the Mauri Compass developed by Dr Ruru and endorsed by Gisborne District Council, the Rapid Habitat Assessment developed by Dr Clapcott and the Cawthron Institute, and the Macroinvertebrate Community Index endorsed by the Ministry for the Environment. A digital monitoring tool with an interactive ‘touch-smart’ and GIS mapping platform is being developed as a user interface for the monitoring data collected.
Wananga participants included a number of local land owners, farmers and young people.
“We are really looking to achieve a sustainable model of co-existence between humans and other species” said participant Manu Caddie. “As Wendell Berry says, the question we must deal with is not whether the domestic and the wild are separate or can be separated; it is how, in the human economy, their indissoluble and necessary connection can be properly maintained. What kind of plantation forestry or hill country farming is helpful to protect remaining wildlife while still enabling locals to earn a living? And where will our food and construction materials come from if we didn’t have farming or forestry?”
Participants spent the evenings adding sites to a growing digital database and GIS map for Hikurangi Takiwa using online services to source information that was integrated with local cultural knowledge.
“GIS is a powerful and accessible tool for recording and re-presenting matauranga (cultural knowledge) that is important to us, supports lifelong learning and our aspirations, needs and responsibilities as kaitiaki” said Ms Pohatu.
“The ability to collaboratively build and share maps supports intergenerational transmission of matauranga, improves our decision-making and better informs the initiatives we want to lead and get involved with.”
A Ngati Porou Wai Maori Hui was held at the conclusion of the wananga with presentations by Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou representatives and Gisborne District Council staff.
Penu Pa is one of 30 marae that has access to Nati Waiwhai, a free internet service established by Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou and local ISP Gisborne.Net.
“Internet access is essential for this kind of event” said Penu Pa committee member Natasha Koia. “So we are grateful to the individuals and organisations that have made WiFi accessible to most marae on the East Coast.”
The wananga was supported by the Department of Conservation Community Conservation Partnership Fund, Gisborne District Council and the Cawthron Institute.