Hāngī by the stream

Talking about tuna, learning about local water management and enjoying a delicious hāngī were part of a spring day out for Omarama School students.

The whole school (39 kids) were invited to Omarama Station by rūnanga and landowners Richard and Annabelle Subtil to learn about its native tuna relocation programme and to join in the Upper Waitaki Zone Committee hāngī after its November meeting.

Protecting native longfin eel

John Wilkie, rūnanga representative on the zone committee, explained the importance of relocating tuna – native longfin eel - which are considered a taonga (treasure) having lived in our lakes, swamps, rivers and streams for more than 23 million years.

Te Rūnanga o Arowhenua, Te Rūnanga o Moeraki, and Te Rūnanga o Waihao are the kaitiaki rūnanga for the Waitaki catchment and have been working for 15 years to preserve the tuna by relocating selected fish to waters below local hydroelectric dams.

The project, which has also been supported by Meridian Energy, has been trapping and moving the migrating adult tuna back downstream below the dams, to help increase their numbers and allow them to breed at sea.

Students participating in zone committee meeting

The students also got to see the Upper Waitaki Zone Committee hold a meeting - albeit a little less formal than usual, held in the field beside the hāngī pit and stream.

The Committee discussed ongoing biodiversity projects in the Immediate Steps Programme – a partnership programme with landowners and other organisations - and also granted funding for a new project to erect a fish barrier on Fork River to protect vulnerable native species.

The annual hāngī as a chance to engage the whole community

Omarama School students at the Hāngī held by the Upper Waitaki zone Committee

Zone Committee member Richard Subtil said the hāngī is turning into an annual celebration.

“It started off as a celebration with the rūnanga around the eel project and now it’s still a good chance to get everyone together, including the zone committee, and to make the most of living here.”

After a waiata from the school pupils it was time for kai.  Members of the water zone committee, along with rūnanga and Omarama Station and Environment Canterbury staff worked together to raise up the hāngī.  The meal included wild pork, mutton, chicken, lamb, potatoes, kūmara and pumpkin.

Omarama School Principal, Kim McKenzie, said the outing complemented the work the students were doing in the classroom and at their school camp around eels and their ecosystems.

“It’s becoming a tradition for us now to come down and enjoy the hāngī and learn more about our local waterway life.”