News: Field trials of an estuary-monitoring toolkit for Māori

Manaia Harbour on the west coast of the Coromandel Peninsula. (Photos: Alastair Jamieson, Wild Earth Media)

Willing hands prepare the beach seine.

Hinearanginui Little and Craig Solomon measure the profile of the sand flat.

Sorting the haul to identify fish species. (Photos: Alastair Jamieson, Wild Earth Media)

Field trials of an estuary-monitoring toolkit for Māori

Māori have long monitored environmental change in their estuaries to keep an eye on resources, such as kaimoana, and to make decisions about conservation measures, such as rāhui. However, when it comes to working within the constraints of the Resource Management Act, science-based tools are often needed to complement traditional knowledge and kaitiakitanga responsibilities.

In this context, NIWA is developing Ngā Waihotanga Iho, a toolkit to help tanagata whenua measure and monitor environmental changes in their estuaries. It is based on sound science principles and is firmly underpinned by Māori values. A primary objective of the project, which is funded by the Foundaton for Research, Science and Technology, is to empower tangata whenua in the decision-making process for resource management.

The initial phase of the project was consultation with two coastal hapū groups to establish their concerns and priorities for their estuaries. The next phase was developing easily learned monitoring methods and a manual. The toolkit is based on a series of modules: habitat mapping, sediments, water and sediment quality, plants, fish, shellfish, and coastal management legislation. The modules are designed so that hapū and community groups can pick and choose which are of greatest use for their particular estuary. They are also intended to provide an educational resource for secondary school students.

In February, the project advanced to its next phase: field trials. NIWA staff spent four days at Manaia estuary in the Firth of Thames, working with Ngāti Whanaunga and Ngāti Pukenga and science students from Coromandel Area School. During that time, they went over the methods in each of the modules and demonstrated the simple measurement tools required. Copies of the manual were left with the tangata whenua so they can use the tools independently for a couple of months. Based on their feedback, the NIWA scientists in the project will further refine the toolkit before the manual is translated into Te Reo.

For further information, contact:
Andrew Swales, 0-7-856 1761, a.swales@niwa.co.nz
Darcel Rickard, 0-7-859 1889, d.rickard@niwa.co.nz