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 brought 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 was our school holiday weekend wānanga on matauranga taiao in which anyone was 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.

The project helped fence and plant sections of:

  • Mangaotuku awa in New Plymouth with Te Pihipihinga KKM, Spotswood College and the Marfell community garden group.
  • Mangaemiemi stream near Waitara with Otaraua hapu
  • a stream by Waokena Pa near Te Hawera, with pa whanau.

The project also supplied:

  • Oakuramatapu Pa with a hothouse for their maara
  • Tawhirikura hapu with a shade house for their new native tree nursery
  • trees and plants for a new maara at Muru Raupatu marae
  • fruit trees for the food forest at Te Pihipihinga KmiR Kura
  • trees and plants for the community maara at Whakaahurangi marae
  • native trees and fruit trees for a community orchard at Pennington Park in Waitara by Owae Marae
  • native trees for Te Upoko o Te Whenua Marae, Tarata.

In 2021 we moved in to a different stage of our mahi with a focus on particular awa where whanau and kura were keen to keep going and we can find funding or manage doing it voluntarily. Many of the groups we worked with are still monitoring waterways with the SHMAKits and doing what they can to plant trees and do pest control. Trees That Count have kindly donated lots of trees for the whanau at Waokena Pā and for Otaraua hapū. The World Wildlife Foundation has also given us funding to complete fencing, planting and pest control at Otaraua along the Mangaemimi. The National Advisory Group for Freshwater Citizen Science is funding us to extend our water monitoring skills and fence and plant one of the upper catchments of the Waitekaure awa on whanau land in Pungarehu. And COGS are keeping our administration ticking while we seek more funding and manage what we’ve got for 2021.

In 2022 we plan to focus on Waitekaure awa restoration and supporting the maara group at Parihaka to expand their food production systems.

There’s heaps of monitoring to continue and plants to get in the ground and release year round. If you’re keen to get involved please get in touch. More information, events and resources are posted regularly on our Facebook page too.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our educators with iwi, marae, hapū and kura were:
Hoani Eriwata, Marie Gregory-Hunt, Soraya Forbes and Emily Bailey

Thanks to our holiday wananga caterers and co-ordinators: Jan Manu and Karen, Robyn Martin-Kemp and Emily Page.

Our project managers are: Emily Bailey and Urs Signer : emilybailey297[at] , urspetersigner[at]

The Kaitiaki Taiao groups we support are:

  • Ngāti Maru on Te Awaroa/Waitara awa with Kaimata School
  • Otaraua Hapū on Mangaemiemi stream and 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.

Ngā mihinui ki a koutou katoa!

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