Surrounding the iconic snow-tipped volcanic cone of Taranaki Maunga (Mt Taranaki) lies the Taranaki region of Aotearoa New Zealand.
Fertile soils and farms spread out from the forested national park at the mountain’s base, reaching the coast to the west where Taranaki’s settlements largely lie in a circle around the mountain. Water flows from mountain to sea in all directions; the trickling streams and tributaries carrying life.
Te Whenua Tōmuri Trust is a charitable trust formed in 2013 to inspire and empower people to protect their communities and natural environment. The Trust supports sustainable community development and wellbeing in Taranaki and beyond through the promotion of kaitiakitanga – Tiaki Taiao.
‘Te tangata tōmua, te whenua tōmuri’ was an agreement made by Taranaki rangatira before the Land Wars, to put themselves forward to protect the land.
Today, Te Whenua Tōmuri supports a number of programmes throughout the Taranaki region to provide resources, support and hands-on opportunities to help people connect with and protect their local environment, restore wilderness and take action on climate change.
Maru Wai Matara – a stream kaitiaki project in Taranaki
Te Whenua Tōmuri Trustee, Emily Bailey, signed up to Wai Tuwhera o te Taiao to supplement the Trust’s Taiao monitoring project in Taranaki, called Maru Wai Matara. The project involves monitoring several awa in Taranaki, which the Trust has been monitoring since about 2015. The focus is on action - training, resourcing and mentoring Taranaki hapū and marae to monitor, restore and manage their waterways and mahingakai sources, with support from tamariki of a local kura.
“Our rohe-wide project is a perfect fit,” says Emily on the work with Wai Tuwhera o te Taiao. “A key objective we have is to reconnect kaitiaki with their taonga wai through practical kaupapa such as monitoring.”
Through Maru Wai Matara, kaitiaki have collected data for over 40 Taranaki sites with several Māori communities and school groups. This includes invertebrate, and physical and chemical data gathered using their Stream Health Monitoring and Assessment kit (SHMAK), fish surveys and surveys of other fauna and flora at the sites.
Te Whenua Tōmuri saw benefit in purchasing some eDNA kits alongside those provided through Wai Tuwhera o te Taiao, to monitor on local Māori owned farms as well as using them with community and school groups.
Catchment-scale eDNA sampling
This year, they have just about finished taking eDNA samples from 17 community sites and 18 farm sites. Through this mahi, 10 Māori water monitors were trained in eDNA sampling, across three iwi rohe.
The eDNA results have been coming in over the past few months.
“Our particular interest was in taonga ika species, and also to compare results with our SHMAK, flora and fauna, and fish surveys. While the results have confirmed most of our fish surveys, we were surprised to see trout species where we didn't know they existed,” says Emily.