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Restoring Lake Waikare: A Māori-led Initiative to improve Water Health

At Tawera Nikau‘s farm in Ohinewai, Waikato, efforts are underway to restore the health of Lake Waikare, a treasured water body for mana whenua (local people), and the fourth biggest lake in Aotearoa. To improve the mauri (lifeforce) of the lake, two AquaWatch Waka 5 have been deployed to provide insights into the health of waterways that feed into the lake.

Tawera Nikau, Operations Manager of Nikau Estate Trust, Co-Chair of Tāngaro Tuia te Ora, Endangered Species Foundation, with Abi Croutear-Foy, Managing Director of AquaWatch

“Our ultimate goal is to provide a better understanding of what is going into our lake so that as kaitaiki (caretakers), we can improve how we look after it,” says Nikau, Operations Manager of Nikau Estate Trust, Co-Chair of Tāngaro Tuia te Ora, Endangered Species Foundation.  

Mana whenua at Matahuru Marae and the Nikau Estate Trust have been involved in a number of restoration projects for their awa (waterways) and the roto (lake). These efforts have extended all the way up the water catchment area and to the different roto in the region.

“Water is really important to me especially from a wairua perspective, from a Maaori perspective, it’s the wellbeing of who we are,” says Nikau. “Looking after our wai (water), is of the utmost importance.”

The Maaori led restoration initiatives have involved monitoring wai, eradication of koi carp an invasive and destructive fish species, and growing plants in the water.

“There’s no silver bullet,” says Nikau, “but we know that if we start working on a whole lot of things, it will make a difference.”

To support these efforts, Abi Croutear-Foy, Managing Director of AquaWatch met with Tawera on his farm, to deploy two of the latest water monitoring devices, Waka5.

“What we are hoping to do,” says Croutear-Foy, “is to collaborate and continue with the dialogue between the water, the land and the people, to provide that translation service and ultimately improve water health. ”

Tawera grew up at Lake Waikare where he and his whānau used to live, play and do everything out of the lake. Sadly, over the last 50 years, he has witnessed the degradation of the lake and the loss of biodiversity.

“One of the main reasons we’ve started to engage with AquaWatch is to understand what we’re doing,” says Nikau. “Being able to make sure you’re doing the best thing possible is significant for us as Maaori, as kaitiaki. Having data and feedback, informs us of what we need to do to become better.”

The AquaWatch water monitoring system (waka) consists of five sensors that measure water health key indicators of dissolved oxygen, turbidity, temperature, pH, and conductivity.

These sensors will provide the farm with real-time data on key water quality indicators. These can then be used to make informed decisions about water management, protect aquatic ecosystems, and improve human health and wellbeing.

“As soon as we start listening to water and data in real-time, it tells us all the information we need to know,” says Croutear-Foy. “We’re looking to provide the continuity of data, a quality service and real-world applications, to Tawera to support the work that’s he’s doing”.

You can watch a full video of the deployment at Tawera’s farm below and contact us here for further information.



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