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Research Centre For Threatened Taonga Species

Hokonui Rūnanga is looking into setting up a research centre grounded in mātauranga dedicated to kanakana and other taonga species.

The kanakana is a jawless fish that looks like an eel but is more closely related to sharks. It predates dinosaurs and is a taonga species for Ngāi Tahu whānau.

Kanakana, which migrate from August to October up the Waikawa and Mataura rivers to spawning grounds upstream, are under threat from habitat decline and an unidentified disease. The species is classified as nationally vulnerable, the same rating as Takahē, under the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZTCS).

VIDEO: Kanakana - Ngāi Tahu Mahinga Kai

Hokonui Rūnanga is one of 18 Ngāi Tahu Papatipu Rūnanga throughout Te Waipounamu (South Island). Its environmental agency, Hokonui Rūnanga Kaupapa Taiao has collaborated with multiple organisations on kanakana research, including Cawthron Institute, the Biological Heritage National Science Challenge, Plant & Food Research, University of Canterbury, Kitson Consulting, NIWA, and Te Wai Māori Trust.

The rūnanga has contracted its current Kaiārihi Taiao (environmental lead) Riki Parata to investigate the feasibility of a dedicated taonga species research centre, Kanakana Research Ltd. Such an entity is believed to be a first in New Zealand.

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“It’s a fantastic opportunity to step up and see if I can make this happen,” Riki Parata says.

“We have been involved in plenty of kanakana research to date, but this is a whole new level.”

Riki Parata is leaving his current role to take up the contract starting on March 18, but Kaupapa Taiao will continue to deliver and grow its freshwater and other environmental mahi.

Hokonui Rūnanga Manager Terry Nicholas is excited by the initiative.

“Building intergenerational capability through innovative research and science is at the heart of what we have been looking to develop through our Murihiku Regeneration kaupapa. The establishment of Kanakana Research Ltd is another bold and positive step,” Terry Nicholas says.

Hokonui Rūnanga Kaupapa Taiao Chief Advisor Dr Lynda Murchison says Riki Parata’s presence will be missed, “but this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”.

“We have a great team, which will ensure the work here continues.”

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