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Ihutai Cultural Health Monitoring

Ihutai Cultural Health Monitoring

Local mana whenua, supported by Environment Canterbury, Avon-Heathcote Estuary/Ihutai Trust, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu and the Ministry for the Environment are conducting some cultural monitoring fieldwork of the Avon and Heathcote Rivers and the estuary to assess the extent of change within the estuary catchment/ Ihutai. The monitoring work is being conducted by members of Ngāi Tūāhuriri, Te Hapū o Ngāti Wheke and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu.

Environment Canterbury Resource care Co-ordinator Jenny Bond says the review should provide valuable baseline data as part of a wider monitoring programme. The results may be used for the restoration and future management of the estuary and its urban catchment. “It will compliment western scientific monitoring done by ECan and CCC,” she says.

The monitoring work is conducted on at least 28 sites on the Estuary/Ihutai and Avon/Otakaro and Heathcote/Opawaho Rivers, considered to be traditionally important to mana whenua. One of the project leaders, Craig Pauling (Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu) says it’s been a long time since anyone could gather food from the estuary or the rivers feeding into it. “We believe Ihutai is too degraded …so with this monitoring work we get a chance to prove or disprove that,” says Mr Pauling. He says so far they came across a few places with potential to become healthy again if councils, tangata whenua and landowners work together.

Every site is assessed using a cultural values based tool being developed by Ngāi Tahu, called Takiwā which quantifies a site score based on a number of factors including sustainability for harvesting mahinga kai, access issues, the degree of modification and the identification of valued as well as pest species present. Other natural resources such as particular types of stone are also identified.

The CHI or Cultural Health Index for Rivers and Streams, the SHMAK or Stream Health Monitoring and Assessment Kit are also used at all river sites to gather further data on the health of the waterways, such as water clarity, quality and stream life. E.Coli water testing is carried out at the sites to profile potential contamination in the water as well as “electric fishing” to confirm the presence or absence of fish species at suitable sites. Electric fishing involves sending a current through the water which stuns the fish, allowing them to be counted, before it’s released safely back into the water.

“The environment should be healthy enough to eat from, not just swim in, and that’s our expectation,” says Mr Pauling. “We will make practical recommendations for restoration and protection of Te Ihutai.”

Jenny Bond says the non-statuary plan for the Ihutai catchment that came out in December 2004 identified “cultural values” as one of the ideals that should be achieved for the estuary and it’ rivers. “Ihutai is a place of immense cultural significance to tangata whenua, yet cultural monitoring has never been undertaken before. By including cultural monitoring alongside scientific monitoring this will give us a clearer picture of Ihutai’s current state and how it can be improved.”


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