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Rāhui over upper Waikato River after wastewater spill lifted

A rāhui placed from Te Waiheke o Huka (Huka Falls) to Pohaturoa (Atiamuri) on the Waikato River has been lifted.

Ngati Tahu – Ngati Whaoa Runanga Trust, supported by Te Arawa River Iwi Trust (TARIT), asked people not to gather food from the upper Waikato River until further notice following the wastewater spills in Taupō in July.

A rāhui is a management tool used to restrict use of an area to ensure the principles of kaitiakitanga (stewardship) are upheld and to protect the health and wellbeing of the community.

Evelyn Forrest, environment manager for the Ngati Tahu – Ngati Whaoa Runanga Trust, says people who normally fish for trout, eel and koura and gather watercress in the area have been very respectful of the long-standing Māori environmental custom.

Some people sought advice of Fish& Game, who together with the Te Arawa River Iwi Trust (TARIT), Tauhara North No2 Trust, Taupō District Council, Mercury Energy and Fonterra had all supported the rāhui.

Evelyn Forrest says recent tests have shown the E. coli levels of the river had returned to normal.

Work is taking place to monitor the river’s health. Last year five sensors were placed in the river, by Waikato River iwi and their partners, to monitor from Te Waiheke o Huka (Huka Falls) to Pohaturoa (Atiamuri).

Eugene Berryman-Kamp, chief executive of TARIT, says the “RiverSense” sensors provided information 24/7 on a range of indicators of river quality including dissolved oxygen, temperature, PH, turbidity and nitrates.

The real time data was available on a digital dashboard and ultimately would be used for modelling land use change and the effect of that on water quality.

A second monitoring scheme, the Ruahuwai Takiwa project, has now been funded by the Waikato River Authority and that final report is due early 2020.

Roger Pikia, co-chair of the Waikato River Authority and chair of the Ngati Tahu – Ngati Whaoa Runanga Trust and TARIT, says river iwi and their partners are undertaking many environmental projects around the health of the river and its flora and fauna, as well as bringing stories of the river to life for the iwi to share with all New Zealanders.

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