• Lake Minchin in the heart of Arthur's Pass National Park. Image - Angus McIntosh

    Lake Minchin in the heart of Arthur's Pass National Park. Image - Angus McIntosh

Regional councils co-design research on freshwater ecosystem health

Management of freshwater is important for regional councils because the health of organisms in groundwater is a topic of intense public interest. Groundwater health team members work with a number of regional councils including Environment Canterbury, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, and Environment Southland. With regional council staff, the team identifies candidate bores and suitable land-use types for sampling aquifers.

Kia ora te wai – enhancing connections through freshwater restoration and outreach with tamariki (children) and rangatahi (youth) in the Waihora catchment
Year 10 Māori students collect data at a restored wetland on a dairy farm as part of the He Puna Pūtaiao programme. Image - Catherine Febria
Lake Minchin in the heart of Arthur's Pass National Park. Image - Angus McIntosh

For more than four years, researchers and farmer partners from the Food webs and stream restoration team have opened their gates to the wider community – including industry, councils, central government, schools and iwi − to communicate the science and lessons learned from freshwater restoration trials. One of the most meaningful connections has been with the younger generation of leaders – tamariki and rangatahi – and efforts to connect them with real-world examples of collaborations in restoration taking place across their rohe (region). The team engages with them at multiple ages and pathways, from primary school to postgraduate.

As part of the Canterbury Waterway Rehabilitation Experiment (CAREX), the team, along with their student, recently carried out a tamariki day with Te Taumutu Rūnanga. Whānau sampled and explored a 15-year-old wetland restoration site in the Waihora catchment to learn first-hand about wetland and freshwater biodiversity. Annually, for the past five years, they have also engaged and participated in science mentorship as part of the University of Canterbury’s He Puna Pūtaiao programme. This connects Year 10 Māori students from schools across Christchurch to engage in and conduct their own science projects about the health of Te Waihora Lake Ellesmere.

Cultural context and values are also delivered as part of a freshwater field skills course in the Waterways Centre for Freshwater Management. The team partners with the regional council’s cultural land management advisor to connect concepts of freshwater restoration and mahinga kai restoration in the Waihora catchment to council biomonitoring and restoration assessments.

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