Cultural Keystone Species - Co-management and restoration of our freshwater taonga species

Freshwater Cultural Keystone (Taonga) Species such as tuna, kōura and kāeo/kākahi are central to the identity and wellbeing of many Māori communities throughout Āotearoa. For generations these species have sustained communities and been vital in the transfer of customary practices and knowledge from one generation to the next.

Māori communities around the country note that the abundance, size and/or distribution of tuna, kōura and kāeo/kākahi is declining and that current populations aren’t sufficient to meet their needs (socially, culturally or economically). Māori communities must be actively involved in the sustainable management of these species, so their importance is recognised and prioritised in co-management, monitoring and restoration approaches.

This four-year MBIE-funded research programme (Cultural Keystone Species – CKS2020) scales up, and builds on the freshwater taonga species research that NIWA has been undertaking with whānau, hapū and iwi around the country over the last 10+ years. It looks to co-develop research methods, tools and products with whānau, hapū and iwi that inform new and innovative management approaches for the protection, restoration and economic development of Cultural Keystone Species (CKS).

This project comprises four themes:

  1. Understanding and maximising the survival of juvenile CKS life stages;
  2. Understanding the influence of multiple stressors and cumulative effects on CKS populations;
  3. Developing approaches to assess and communicate state and trends in CKS populations; and
  4. Developing interdisciplinary decision-making frameworks that value and support CKS populations.

Through a series of coordinated interlinked studies, this project is designed to meet the needs of our partnerships and generate transferrable approaches for use by resource managers and agencies involved in restoration and co-management of Cultural Keystone Species.

Partnerships include: Tipa & Associates, Kusabs & Associates, Ngāti Tahu-Ngāti Whaoa Rūnanga Trust, Ngā Kaitiaki o Ngā Wai Māori, Te Arawa Lakes Trust, Te Hikutu, University of Waikato, Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Northland Regional Council, Department of Conservation


NIWA Contacts

Pou Whakarae - Te Hiringa Taiao
Page last updated: 
8 March 2021