Maru Wai Matara – Kaitiaki Taiao

For a long time tāngata whenua in Taranaki have struggled to protect and manage their environment, which once provided ample food, clean water, transport paths, recreation, rongoā and plant resources crucial to survival. Land confiscation, structural racism and poverty removed tāngata whenua from most of their lands and waterways leaving much of the whenua, awa, reefs, forests and wetlands to be poorly looked after. This project aims to help tāngata whenua return to and restore the health of their natural environments to provide some healing and mana motuhake for the people. A specific outcome we are creating is a community environmental monitoring database for Taranaki.

The Maru Wai Matara project began in 2015, with a pilot programme we developed in english and te reo Māori, working with Pūniho Pā (for Matanehunehu awa), Parihaka Pā (for Waitotoroa awa), Rahotu Primary School (for Rautini awa) and Te Pihipihinga Kākano mai i Rangiātea Kura Kaupapa Māori (for Mangaotuku awa). The four groups were educated, resourced and trained in waterway monitoring using the Stream Health Monitoring Assessment Kit (SHMAK) developed by NIWA, iwi and universities. The groups completed riparian planting actions as well. This was funded by WWF-New Zealand‘s Environmental Education Action Fund  who also taught us how to use the Wetland Monitoring Assessment Kit (WETMAK).

In 2016 we researched and ran free wānanga into further environmental monitoring that included fish surveys, ecological surveys, E.coli testing, chemical pollutant testing and Cultural Health Index (CHI) monitoring. This was supported by Venture Taranaki‘s Curious Minds project that is funded by MBIE. We worked with other iwi and hapū to develop a Catchment Management Plan template for marae, hapū and iwi to use as well.

Our 2017-2020 programme now brings free education, resources, long-term planning skills and wider support to eight more groups every year for three years, creating a total of 28 Kaitiaki Taiao groups in Taranaki by mid 2020. This includes environmental health monitoring training, waterway improvements, new sustainability projects and catchment/land management planning. A special part of the programme is our new school holiday weekend wānanga on matauranga taiao in which anyone is welcome to take part. There are three of these each year in which we go up the maunga, to the moana or into the bush. This is funded by the Ministry for the Environment’s Community Environment Fund, Lotteries, WWF-New Zealand’s Environmental Education Action Fund, Toi Tangata’s Waiariki project and Te Wai Maori Trust’s Wai Ora Fund.

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Our educators with iwi, marae, hapū and kura are:
Marie Doorbar – mariedoorbar[at]
Hoani Eriwata – johneriwata[at]
Soraya Forbes – whaearay[at]
Emily Bailey – emilybailey297[at]
Our project managers are: Emily Bailey and Urs Signer – urspetersigner[at], 06 7638 297, 021 037 6737.

We are seeking 8 more Kaitiaki Taiao groups in Taranaki to join us each year. If you are interested in this or our school holiday weekend wānanga, please get in touch!

The Kaitiaki Taiao groups we currently support are:

  • Te Pihipihinga Kākano Mai i Rangiātea Kura Kaupapa – Mangaotuku Stream
  • Parihaka Pā on Waitotoroa awa to team with Rahotu Primary School on Rautini Stream
  • Pūniho Pā on Matanehunehu awa to team with Coastal School
  • Puketapu Hapū on Manga-o-Raka awa teaming with Fitzroy School on Te Hēnui awa
  • Otaraua Hapū on Mangaemiemi stream to team with Tikorangi School
  • Ngāti Maru on Te Awaroa/Waitara awa teaming with Kaimata School
  • Manukorihi Hapū on Waitara awa and Tangaroa stream
  • Tawhirikura Hapū on Waiwhakaiho awa teaming with Puketapu Primary School on Mangatī stream
  • Ngā Ruahine Kura Kaupapa Māori on Kaūpokonui-o-Turi awa

Ngā mihinui ki a koutou katoa!

More information on the SHMAK system we use can be found here at NIWA.