Ben & George at meeting with iwi and farmer

Waimā Waitai Waiora Partnership Project

Waterways – With Descriptor

What was the purpose of this project?

The Kaipara is the largest harbour in the Southern Hemisphere and a national taonga for its ecological, cultural, historic and economic values.  The large-scale loss of wetlands and modification of the waterway network has increased sediment loads entering waterways, eventually ending up in the Kaipara.

The Waimā Waitai Waiora project was a partnership between Ngā Kaitiaki O Ngā Wai Māori (NKONWM), Te Roroa, Te Uri O Hau, Northland Regional Council, Living Water, Reconnecting Northland, Manaaki Whenua / Landcare Research, Sustainable Business Network (Million Metres Streams) and the Integrated Kaipara Harbour Management Group. The organisations worked together with landowners to develop farm environment and water quality improvement plans for 230 farms, incorporating sustainable land management practices and Mātauranga Māori principles. The goal was to reduce sediment flowing into the Kaipara Harbour.

Living Water was one contributor to this project that brought partners together under an innovative ‘Mana Enhancing Agreement’ signed in December 2017. This agreement placed the principle of mana at the centre of a living relationship to manage expectations, roles and responsibilities of the partners working together

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

What’s been achieved?

The Waimā Waitai Waiora partnership set a number of ambitious goals.

  • Goal 1: By 2022, Te Kawa Waiora will be developed for Farm Environment Plans and implemented in the Wairoa catchment, informed by sustainable land management practices through Mātauranga Māori. Mātauranga Māori principles and recommended actions are not a current feature of FEPs. Kawa is used in other settings as a traditional Māori convention to provide a pathway to achieving a desired outcome. Mātauranga Māori principles are identified in iwi environmental management plans.
  • Outcome 1: Empowered local iwi, hapū and mana whenua groups to provide leadership for positive behavioural change informed by a shared understanding of traditional and living Māori knowledge and practices that guide people’s relationship to land and water in the Wairoa and Kaipara catchments (Kaitiaki). Other applications of Te Kawa Waiora are identified and it is expected the work will be a powerful baseline for developing the catchment context for farm environment plans. The hapū co-ordinator role at Northland Regional Council (NRC) came out of the Waimā, Waitai, Waiora Partnership. The purpose of this role was to specifically support hapū and NRC to engage meaningfully. This has helped to build good partnerships with hapū /iwi. This co-ordinator role has now been permanently embedded within NRC, increasing the capability and capacity of local government to engage. The Waimā, Waitai, Waiora Partnership gave hapū a voice at the table to express what Mātauranga Māori meant. Through this, partners (including council and industry) were given the opportunity to see what is valued through a different lens. The Waimā, Waitai, Waiora Partnership shifted the conversation on farm away from strict criteria/rules (for example fencing setbacks) to one that supported Māori landowners to apply their own Mātauranga to how the fencing planting would be undertaken.
  • Goal 2: By 2022, establish, administer and implement Freshwater Improvement Fund (FIF) grants totalling $1,622,500 of which $300,000 will be spent on dairy and/or dairy support farms. At least 100,000 plants on average are planted on riparian margins and retired areas (hill or wetlands) annually, based on FEP recommendations.
  • Outcome 2: Riparian planting of over 390,000 plants took place (100,000 natives planted in 2019, 133,000 planted in 2020, 100,000 planted in 2021 and 60,000 planted in 2022 season). Fencing for stock exclusion of waterways also occurred with 40,953 metres fenced in 2018/2019, 4,000m in 2019/2020, 8,347m in 2020/21 and 6,531m in 2021/22.
  • Goal 3: By 2022, 2 farm field days will be held on a property where a FEP has been completed and work has been funded. Updates on the project provided at the Integrated Kaipara Harbour Management Group quarterly hui.
  • Outcome 3: One successful field day was held in partnership with a land owner/kaitiaki that the project had provided grant funding. There was increased engagement with kaitiaki and hau kainga of working alongside tangata whenua to realise their environmental aspirations. A significant number of hui/ wānanga, site visits and kaumatua interviews were undertaken. In addition numerous planting and education/information sharing events were held. This included at least 10 planting days (Pipiwai, Akerama, Awaroa, Kokupu, Mangakahia) and Education / wānanga events including water quality monitoring training days through Whitebait Connection and NKONWM.
  • Goal 4: By 2022, NRC in collaboration with other project partners in the FIF project will set up, measure and report any changes to freshwater quality within the Wairoa catchment.
  • Outcome 4: The WAIora freshwater monitoring App was developed and implemented. The app is used to assess the resource condition in relation to human activities and land management practices. It is also being used to measure and assess trends towards specific iwi goals and objectives for resource, taonga species, or a culturally significant area.Used alongside scientifically based quantitative attributes and measures, the tool provides a robust, holistic, and complementary dataset to inform freshwater management to measure progress towards iwi environmental aspirations The regional water quality monitoring network includes 12 sites within the Wairoa catchment with 10 sites confined to the upper catchment. NKONWM undertook (and continues to undertake) water quality monitoring and reporting back to the partnership regularly. Monitoring indicated the contaminants of most concern for freshwater quality within the Wairoa catchment included high turbidity (sediment), Dissolved Reactive Phosphorus (DRP) and E. coli levels.

What lessons were learned?

The primary objectives of the project (planting and fencing) were achieved, and the Hapū coordinator role at the NRC was established and embedded. There was genuine and enduring trust and honesty (partnership values) between the partners during the project. Te Kawa Waiora, its recommendations and the kaitiaki research training led to capability growth and support for hapū /iwi. There was a move from general landowner funding to a majority of funding going to Māori whenua blocks. Landowners were assisted to explore options for land use change and transition.

There were also some lessons for working in partnership, especially in relation to Te Ao Māori and Te Mana o Te Wai:

  • Empathy for tangata whenua. Partner agencies need to support tangata whenua within their communities to realise their aspirations. There is work that agencies can do to educate themselves and change operating practices. Healing grievances requires working together.
  • Equity for tangata whenua. Relationships can often be transactional rather than transformational. This includes how funding and resourcing is provided and reported on. Building trust and working together is essential.
  • Systems and processes within Local Government. Processes and systems at times created frustrations due to lack of understanding and trust.
  • Membership capacity and limitations. Hapū are stretched, needing to be across many workstreams. Hapū that have settled under Te Tiriti o Waitangi are required to have relationships across many central and local government agencies. This hinders their ability to participate completely. This is linked with disparity of resources and expectations that settled hapū can fund themselves to be at the table. Similarity hapū that have not settled under Te Tiriti o Waitangi are volunteers and have other jobs to balance.
  • Long-term funding. As a pilot project there was no commitment of funding for its continuation. There may be future opportunities for the partnership. Legislation changes to the RMA and the National Policy Statement for Freshwater have elevated Te Mana o Te Wai, providing for inclusion of tangata whenua in decision making and operationally.

What happens next?

Some of the key successes of the project have become embedded, such as the Hapu co-ordinator role at the NRC. The partnership intends to continue, with NKONWM hosting and administering the Partnership into the future. The partners will continue to work together define the new role and purpose of the partnership, its scope and administration structure.

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