EOS Ecology is leading the programme and is responsible for the project initiative, study design, programme management and implementation, monitoring, reporting. Our aim is for a collaborative and inclusive project with both environmental and social benefits, and outputs that are accessible to local community, resource managers, and science community. Shelley McMurtrie is programme leader and operational contact.
Whaka Inaka aims to align with Ngāi Tahu's wider plans for the long-term improvement in mahinga kai values for the area. Te Marino Lenihan (Tangata Tiaki, Ngāi Tūahūriri; contractor to Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu) has been acting on TRONT's behalf to lead Ngāi Tahu's involvement on the project, and liaise with local Ngāi Tahu hapū representatives and the Te Ihutai Ahuwhenua Trust.
Mike Hickford (Marine Ecology Research Group, research biologist) and Shane Orchard (Waterways Centre for Freshwater Management, PhD candidate) are providing their time to assist with parts of this programme. Through this partnership the benefits of both projects are greatly enhanced.
Conservation Volunteers New Zealand (CVNZ) is organising the volunteers for the programme.
The project team talking about Whaka Inaka and its funding by the DOC Community Fund.
Project team members Te Marino (left with children), Shelley (centre right), and Mike (right) with Associate Conservation Minister Nicky Wagner (centre) during the official announcement of DOC Community Fund support of Whaka Inaka.
Work by the University of Canterbury has found that straw bales make the perfect temporary spawning habitat for inanga. We will also use it as a tool to find out exactly where inanga want to spawn in our city rivers. Photo courtesy Shane Orchard, University of Canterbury.
As New Zealanders we are all familiar with whitebait; they are a highly valued mahinga kai and many of us now partake in the passionate pastime of whitebaiting. Historically, Christchurch's rivers were renowned for their whitebait/inanga spawning habitat; early Pakeha settlers called them 'cow fish' as it turned the rivers white like milk.
Since then spawning in Christchurch has declined greatly, with changes to the banks and vegetation rendering much of their original spawning habitat unsuitable. The 2011 earthquakes created further damage and a shift in the saltwater wedge, increasing the uncertainty as to where their spawning areas now are. The reduction in spawning success here could also affect other Pegasus Bay inanga populations that are dependent on juveniles originating from these source rivers.
In the largest initiative of its kind, Whaka Inaka will greatly improve spawning success by providing temporary spawning habitat along 3 km of riverbank in the Heathcote/Opawho and Avon/Otakaro rivers, and will monitor them closely over the breeding season. In partnership with Ngāi Tahu, we will help improve mahinga kai values of the rivers, being a priority concern in the earthquake recovery process and a key natural resource for the local community. Linking with a University of Canterbury PhD research project, we will help identify new potential spawning locations and so assist in the longer-term goal to permanently restore spawning habitat.
PEOPLE AND PLACE
Whaka Inaka is also a chance for local community to be involved in a project with positive change for the natural places within our city.
In partnership with Conservation Volunteers New Zealand, we will involve local community in the installation and removal of the temporary spawning habitat, and two volunteers will be more closely involved in the monitoring of spawning success with scientists from the project team.
Through publishing and celebrating findings using a range of innovative science communication techniques, we will also ensure that the project outputs are greater than the spawning benefits alone.