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:
Hoani Eriwata – johneriwata[at]
Soraya Forbes – whaearay[at]
Emily Bailey – emilybailey297[at]
Our project managers are: Emily Bailey and Urs Signer – urspetersigner[at]

We have one more school holiday wānanga left in July 2020. If you are interested in attending please get in touch!

The Kaitiaki Taiao groups we currently support are:

  • Ngāti Maru on Te Awaroa/Waitara awa with Kaimata School
  • Otaraua Hapū on Mangaemiemi stream to team with Tikorangi School
  • Manukōrihi Hapū on Waitara awa and Tangaroa stream with Waitara East School and Whenua Warriors
  • Puketapu Hapū on Manga-o-Raka and Wai-o-Ngana awa with Fitzroy School on Te Hēnui awa
  • Tawhirikura Hapū on Waiwhakaiho awa with Puketapu Primary School on Mangatī stream
  • Ngāti Te Whiti hapū with Te Pihipihinga Kākano Mai i Rangiātea Kura Kaupapa Māori and Spotswood College on Mangaotuku Stream
  • Pūniho Pā on Matanehunehu awa with Coastal School on Kaihihi awa
  • Parihaka Pā on Waitotoroa awa with Rahotu Primary School on Rautini Stream and Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Tamarongo on Waiaua awa
  • Whakaahurangi marae on Waipukupatea awa with a Rangatahi Roopu and Eltham Primary School
  • Ngā Ruahine Kura Kaupapa Māori on Kaūpokonui-o-Turi awa
  • Taiporohēnui marae on Tangahoe awa
  • Whanau from Waokena Pā on their awa with Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngāti Ruanui on Waingōngōro awa
  • Patea Area School on Patea awa to team with a local marae.

Ngā mihinui ki a koutou katoa!

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