Wetland project for Te Waikēkēwai/Waikēkēwai Stream reaches design phase

A five-year project aimed at restoring mahinga kai values to a significant awa/stream in Selwyn is moving from 'pens and paper' to 'doing'.

The Whakaora Te Waikēkēwai project includes the construction of a new wetland on whānau land adjacent to Ngāti Moki Marae.

In an important step, the project team, whānau, and two of the major consultants; Morphum Environmental - for wetland design and hydrology - and Mahaanui Kurataio (MKT) - for Mātauranga Māori monitoring - recently came together for a hui to discuss initial ideas for the wetland's design.

As well as enhancing and increasing the mahinga kai habitat, the project will improve water quality and increase indigenous biodiversity, helping fulfil cultural and ecological aspirations for the area and futureproofing it for generations to come.

A rich history for mana whenua

The project is unique in that it's being led by mana whenua, Te Taumutu Rūnanga, who are building on a long-held vision to restore their cultural connection to the land.

Te Waikēkēwai/Waikēkēwai Stream signifies an important whakapapa/genealogical connection for the rūnanga, as it flows through the pa of Moki II (Te Pa o Moki) the son, to Orariki - the pa of Te Ruahikihiki, his father, who settled at Taumutu in the 17th century.

The hapu of Taumutu descends from this tīpuna/ancestor.

The area once provided abundant food-gathering resources, but over generations, the land use changed and mahinga kai was all but lost.

After several years of smaller-scale restoration works along the lower reaches of the awa/stream between the marae and Te Waihora, the rūnanga felt they were in a good position to shift their focus upstream - reaching out to twelve private landowners whose properties will also benefit.

It was important to Te Taumutu whānau to ensure their own backyard was tidy, before asking others to do the same.

A true partnership

The project is co-partnered by Environment Canterbury and funded by Environment Canterbury and the Ministry for the Environment's Freshwater Improvement Fund.

Whakaora Te Waikēkēwai project manager, Sophie McGregor, said it’s an ideal set-up.

"We've got a model that really is working towards that true partnership - where mana whenua are leading decision-making and doing something that benefits not only them, but also that wider landscape in terms of water quality before entering into Te Waihora."

Environment Canterbury team leader of partnership programmes, David Murphy, agreed it's a great example of co-governance.

"This project is significant for not just what we’re going to do, but how we're going to do it - which is a partnership/Te Tiriti co-governance approach. Mana whenua are leading in decision-making right through from delivery on the ground to governance.

"This is hopefully the future direction of how projects throughout Aotearoa can be run."

An exciting road ahead

McGregor said there are a number of layers that make this project so special.

"As well as the wider benefits, it's providing more options and opportunities for Te Taumutu Rūnanga and whānau, particularly in the mahinga kai space."

She was thrilled to see things shift up a gear.

"It's hugely exciting. The first stages were about getting contracts and things in place, and we're finally now moving towards actual doing."