Ben & George at meeting with iwi and farmer

Waimā Waitai Waiora partnership

Partnerships – With Descriptor

What is the problem?

The Kaipara is the largest harbour in the Southern Hemisphere and is a national taonga for its many ecological, cultural, historic and economic values. The mauri (life force) of the harbour, its ecological health and wellbeing is being degraded by sediment from the Wairoa River network.

What is this project?

The eight participants in the Waimā̄, Waitai, Waiora (WWW) partnership (Living Water, Ngā Kaitiaki o Ngā Wai Māori, Te Roroa, Te Uri o Hau, Kaipara Moana Remediation (formally Integrated Kaipara Harbour Management Group), Northland Regional Council, Reconnecting Northland and Sustainable Business Network) are collaborating to restore the mauri of the Wairoa River and its tributaries, using solutions that improve drainage and the ecological resilience of the catchment. The WWW partnership adopted a vision for “a healthy and productive catchment” and are collaborating on projects to reduce sediment and improve water quality. 

The WWW partnership project involves working with landowners to develop farm environment/water quality improvement plans for 230 farms, incorporating sustainable land management practices and the principles of Mātauranga Māori. The goal is to reduce sediment flowing into the Kaipara Harbour.

Looking at eels

What’s been done?

Recognising the importance of the area to iwi and hapū, the partners came together under an innovative ‘Mana Enhancing Agreement’ (MEA) signed by the partnership in December 2017. This agreement places the principle of mana at the centre of a living relationship to manage the expectations, roles and responsibilities of the partners working on this project. 

With an agreement to an overall goal to reduce sediment flowing into the Kaipara Harbour, and the MEA in place, applications for funding projects could be made and were successful. The five-year project (2017-2022) secured $2.5 million, including $1.25m from the government’s Freshwater Improvement Fund and $1.25m funded by project partners.

The funding is being used to deliver Farm Environment Plans, complete fencing and native planting projects on-farm (133,500 natives planted in 2020, 100,000 in 2021 and 60,000 in 2022), support Te Kawa Waiora and develop stories to engage the community with the project.

Te Kawa Waiora is the Mātauranga element of the project, to enable iwi, hapū and marae from the catchment to research issues of concern and to ensure their contribution to raising the health, wellbeing and mauri of the river is recognised. 

Ngā Kaitiaki o Ngā Wai Māori is a hapū collective that is very active in the Hikurangi, working directly with landowners and agencies to support freshwater improvements, especially for tuna habitat and to support tuna migration. Hapū members worked with Living Water and DOC staff on a voluntary basis over two years to learn the methods of the Living Water monitoring within the Okarika Pocket, an area of surviving wetland. Ngā Kaitiaki o Ngā Wai Māori took over the monthly water quality monitoring in January 2021. The contract also includes bi-annual fish surveys and cultural assessments using the newly developed WAIora App.

What did Living Water learn?

People are critical to improving water quality and biodiversity. Improving water quality involves changing people’s mindsets as much as how they farm, and successful change requires every landowner in a catchment working together in partnership with iwi, councils, and government. Collaborative freshwater work should be designed as people change processes, and be mana enhancing.

As Living Water staff passed on their scientific and technical skills, hapū members shared their Mātauranga with Living Water. It has been an incredibly enriching process for Living Water working with the hapū, and proof of the value of mana enhancing agreements. A combination of science supported by landowner knowledge and Mātauranga Māori will produce the best solutions for freshwater and ecological health.

By engaging and collaborating with community organisations within the Wairua River catchment and Northland area, Living Water has inspired local people to take ownership of their rare and special wetland environment. Equipped with the required knowledge and skills, local people and community organisations will ensure the goal of achieving reduced sediment and improved water quality in the Wairua River catchment becomes reality.

Links to resources

Waimā, Waitai, Waiora website

Te Kawa Waiora

Waimā̄, Waitai, Waiora - partnering to restore the mauri of the Wairoa River