Restoring the health and wellbeing of the lake and whanau of Matahuru

At one time Lake Waikare at Lower Waikato was a source of sustenance for the whanau of Matahuru.

In recent years the health and wellbeing of the lake and surrounding catchment has been degraded by high inputs of nutrients, sediments, algae and bacteria from farm run-off, and removal of the vegetation filtering potential around lake margins.

The lake has been the focus of a number of vegetation restoration projects led by Waikato Regional Council (WRC), local iwi and the Waikato River Authority (WRA). However the benefits of this restoration in accordance with kaitiakitanga have never been evaluated.

The strategic importance of Lake Waikare and the Whangamarino wetland as the lungs and kidneys for the lower Waikato is recognised by local iwi. These areas have multiple cultural, ecological, recreational and economic values. The degradation of the lake impacts on the spiritual and social connections of the mana whenua of the lake.

ESR, through the Centre for Integrated Biowaste Research (CIBR)(external link), is working together with Ngā Muka Development Trust, Te Riu o Waikato Ltd, Matahuru Marae/Nikau Whanau Farm Trust and WRC, to create a monitoring system that will join western science with mātauranga Māori and taiao values. The monitoring system will measure the benefits of riparian vegetation restoration on the health and wellbeing of the lake and whanau of Matahuru. The system will provide a map or pathway to measure the progress of the return of the lake to the modern day equivalent of the environmental state that it was in when Kiingi Taawhiao composed his maimai aroha, including waters that are drinkable, swimmable, and fishable, as stated in the Waikato Tainui Environmental Plan.

To develop the monitoring system, a multi-generational approach is being taken and explores iwi tupuna connections and relationships with the lake. Linking this mātauranga with western science enables us to develop a map to identify ecological, socio-cultural, and spiritual indicators for the assessment of the success of restoration plots.

This research project is possible thanks to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Te Pūnaha Hihiko - Vision Mātauranga Capability Fund(external link).

To find out more about this project, contact ESR scientist Maria Jesus Gutierrez Gines.