Constructed wetland documentary released

 Watch the documentary

  Watch the documentary

Whakaora Te Ahuriri – A Wetland for Te Waihora has been shown for the first time at the .11th international Wetlands Conference (INTECOL).

The documentary, funded by us, the Government’s Freshwater Improvement Fund, and produced by us, celebrates the creation of a constructed wetland in a culturally significant and internationally renowned part of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Culturally-led project

The Co-Chairs of the Te Waihora Co-Governance Group, Liz Brown (Ngāi Tahu) and Jenny Hughey (Environment Canterbury) said the documentary takes us on the journey to discover the history from mana whenua and settler, the mahi and challenges met, the outcomes of the project and what the future might hold.

“Whakaora Te Ahuriri is an excellent example of traditional knowledge and innovative science coming together, of a culturally-led project, of collaboration and consensus, and of a constructed wetland at landscape scale,” the Co- Chairs said.

Environment Canterbury Councillor Craig Pauling (Ngāi Te Ruahikihiki) narrates the documentary.

In it, he says: "Te Ahuriri was a place where his people came together and it was renowned as a significant mahinga kai for Ngāi Tahu. We sold Canterbury to the Crown but reserved our mahinga kai. It didn’t quite work out that way.

We started writing letters asking for the drainage to stop. We became impoverished in our own landscape. We made claims in court. The judges said no, the land was already privatised. We didn’t give up. Ngāi Tahu led the charge on wanting to see a wetland return. We lodged a claim. We asked the regional council to lead it.

There was then a process of coming together and working through the design of a constructed wetland. It means upholding the values of a place – the waterways and the species that call these places home. This is a good example of working collaboratively to give mana back to a waterway."

The project site (that had been grazing land) before works started.

The Whakaora Te Ahuriri project site (that had been grazing land) before works started.

The completed Whakaora Te Ahuriri constructed wetland, with the Huritini/Halswell River to the immediate left, and Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere in the background.

The completed Whakaora Te Ahuriri constructed wetland, with the Huritini/Halswell River.

Thriving plants in the littoral-terrestrial planting area around the main body of the wetland.

Thriving plants in the littoral-terrestrial planting area around the main body of the wetland.

The completed constructed wetland showing the successfully established aquatic plants, and the open water mahinga kai area with island in the foreground.

The completed constructed wetland showing the successfully established aquatic plants.

The Te Waihora connection

Liz Brown (Ngāi Te Ruahikihiki) also appears in the documentary. She says the Te Ahuriri project is part of and connected to Te Waihora.

“And Te Waihora connects us to our whakapapa and to our pūrākau. So that connects us to our identity.

In 2014 the Te Waihora Co-Governance Group endorsed a plan for Te Ahuriri created by a wider group. The Whakaora Te Ahuriri project meets all of the aims of Te Mana o Te Wai. Anything that contributes to Te Waihora to me is a good project.”

Donald Couch (Ngāi Tahu – Ngāti Wheke, Environment Canterbury Commissioner 2010-15) says one of the best things that happened in developing the project was that the residents came on board – “farmers from around here”.

“There were different focuses but we did our homework,” he says.

Simon Manson, a local farmer who sits on the Ahuriri Lagoon Steering Group, says previous generations farmed like they did because they could.

“A group of us got talking to people in Environment Canterbury and there was a meeting that was well attended by local people. This is definitely a start for us to try and right the wrongs of the past.”

 Watch the documentary.

. Te Taumutu Rūnanga (the primary kaitiaki rūnanga of Te Waihora) leading the blessing of the Whakaora Te Ahuriri project site before works began.

Te Taumutu Rūnanga (the primary kaitiaki rūnanga of Te Waihora) leading the blessing of the Whakaora Te Ahuriri project site before works began.

An on-site design hui overlooking Ahuriri Lagoon, that involved mana whenua, neighbouring farmers, staff, officials, and consultants.

An on-site design hui overlooking Ahuriri Lagoon, that involved mana whenua, neighbouring farmers, our staff, officials, and consultants.

Matt Sanford (Enviroschools) teaches students from Lincoln Primary School.

Environment Canterbury’s Matt Stanford teaches students from Lincoln Primary School about mahinga kai and water quality.

A planting day for students from Springston School.

The Whakaora Te Ahuriri project has been getting students from Springston school involved in planting around the lagoon.

Te Waihora wetlands

Te Waihora / Lake Ellesmere and associated wetlands now cover 30,000 hectares, down from 80,000 ha before land drainage and lake opening efforts started.

Many actions are underway to move this internationally significant waterbody from its current degraded state back to its more healthy, natural, stable state. These efforts include work to re-establish the large beds of aquatic plants that once thrived and helped maintain lake health.

One of the tuna/eel found in the  main body of the wetland.

Tuna/eel found in the main body of the wetland.

A very large pregnant īnaka/whitebait found in the wetland.

Pregnant īnaka/whitebait found in the wetland.

Papango/scaup in the open water area.

Papango/scaup in the open water area.

A poaka/pied stilt nest on the island.

A poaka/pied stilt nest on the island.

11th International Wetlands Conference (INTECOL)

Originally planned for Ōtautahi/Christchurch, INTECOL is now being held purely as an online event. It is celebrating wetland stories from around the world with the theme of traditional knowledge and management woven throughout.

The event is organised by the International Association for Ecology, National Wetlands Trust of New Zealand, New Zealand Freshwater Sciences Society, Australian Freshwater Sciences Society and Environment Canterbury.

Find out more about INTECOL.

Co-Governance

The Co-Governance partners are Environment Canterbury, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, Selwyn District Council, Christchurch City Council and the Department of Conservation.

Their vision: Co-Governance is the korowai of kaitiakitanga over Te Waihora and its catchment. To be leaders providing direction for all those who have a role in, or responsibility for, restoring the mauri of Te Waihora while maintaining a prosperous land-based economy and thriving communities for current and future generations.

The vision guiding the work of the Whakaora Te Waihora Joint Restoration Programme: To restore and rejuvenate the mauri and ecosystem health of Te Waihora and its catchment.

Learn more about the Co-Governance model that is protecting Te Waihora – including the inspirational Whakaora Te Ahuriri wetland creation project that is the subject of the documentary.