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Ahuriri Lagoon wetland project blessed

The Co-Governors of Te Waihora / Lake Ellesmere (Environment Canterbury, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, Selwyn District Council, Christchurch City Council and the Department of Conservation) today announced the blessing of a $3.5-million project.

The project is for a new wetland and improved habitat to improve water quality and biodiversity, as well as to ensure the future of mahinga kai in the Ahuriri Lagoon and downstream Huritini / Halswell River.

Attended by many of the people involved in the development of the project, the blessing marked the operational starting point as reflected in the new sign (see main photo).

Co-Chair Steve Lowndes (Environment Canterbury) said it was appropriate that this milestone was happening shortly after World Wetlands Day, when the Government announced it would support a number of wetland projects around Canterbury that the regional council and others were also supporting.

Achieving long term goals for the lake

“The Co-Governors support this project because it is an important part of the Whakaora Te Waihora programme designed to help achieve our long-term goals for the lake,” Mr Lowndes said.

“This project will result in transformation as well as restoration. Water will be diverted from the Huritini / Halswell River into the old course of the river, bringing life back to this feature of the landscape), before the water will flow into the main body of the wetland.

“It will give us significant knowledge that we can transfer to other areas of the lake and around the country. It will allow us to showcase the impact wetlands can play on the surrounding ecosystem.”

On behalf of the Ahuriri Lagoon Steering Group, Stewart Miller (a local landowner) said the project was already showing the benefits of early engagement with the community. “I have been hearing wholehearted support for restoring the values of the lagoon,” he said.

On behalf of Taumutu Rūnanga, David Perenara-O’Connell said the lagoon was an important mahinga kai for all the hapu in the area. “It was made a native reserve as a result of this,” he said. “However, the values fell away as roads, rail and new land uses including dairy were introduced. Practising mahinga kai gives life to our language. Regenerating this wetland will restore mahinga kai for future generations, giving them a more tangible connection to this place.”

All the speakers paid tribute to the part former Environment Canterbury Commissioner Donald Couch and other elders had played in bringing the project to fruition.

Background

The project is funded by the Government’s Freshwater Improvement Fund, Environment Canterbury, and NIWA.

The design of the constructed wetland has been developed with input from rūnanga, the Ahuriri Lagoon Steering Group (representing the community, including neighbouring farmers), consultants, officials and staff. Resource consents for the construction have been secured.

The project also has a Mātauranga Māori monitoring programme to gauge the changing value of the site for iwi, and an applied research component to measure improvements in water quality.

Ahuriri is a site of great significance for Ngāi Tahu and has a long history as a mahinga kai resource for Ngāi Tahu whānau.

The wetland is being set up as a demonstration site to show what can be achieved with constructed wetlands for nutrient “stripping”, meaning intensive monitoring and demonstrating results to landowners in the catchment.

The project is due for completion by 2022.

Drone footage of the site can be found here. The same flight path will be followed regularly to show progress on the project.


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