The National Science Challenge funding allocated to the Revitalise te Taiao programme has seen three place-based research pilots receive a share of $8 million. The Wānaka-based project Knowledge into Action for Te Taiao has been allocated $2.09 million to fund research goals that include expanding traditional farm plans beyond tools of regulation, to enhance the vitality of te Taiao.
The project will be led by WAI Wānaka, a community group that brings together urban businesses, tourism organisations, catchment groups, landowners and community members in the upper Te Mata-Au/Clutha river catchment.
Wānaka is rich in history and indigenous culture. The stories of tangata whenua are embedded in the snow-capped mountain ranges that stand as pou tokomanawa pillars that bear witness to stories of long ago; the native landscape where te hokioi, the Haast eagle, once soared; the picturesque pounamu greenstone trails; the swarms of tuna (eels) overflowing at the lake's edge. Wānaka is a gathering place, where knowledge and information is shared.
Generations on, the natural beauty of Wānaka is now a tourism mecca and a backdrop for Hollywood's film industry. With well over half-a-million visitors each year, the demand and immense pressure on the whenua, wai ora, and te Taiao is calling for action.
In response, WAI Wānaka is working across rural, urban and tourism sectors to increase knowledge and accelerate action that revitalises te Taiao. The intergenerational WAI Wānaka project team is on a mission to empower their community to understand their water, their environment and their impacts, and are spearheading community momentum within the region of Te Mata-Au/Upper Clutha river.
WAI Wānaka aims to take a whole-of-community and whole-of-basin approach to revitalise Te Taiao, with healthy ecosystems and community wellbeing for future generations as its navigational compass.
“The WAI Wānaka team is committed to accelerating local action for our freshwater and te Taiao,” says Knowledge into Action for Te Taiao project lead Prue Kane. “The action plan for our catchment, the mighty Upper Clutha, covers a total area of 4600 square kilometres. We have a dedicated team of passionate people who care about healthy ecosystems and community wellbeing.”
The Knowledge into Action for Te Taiao project is connecting leading scientists, researchers, local farmers, and experts in whenua, wai, āhuarangi (climate) and koiora (all living communities) to understand metrics that matter for assessing te Taiao. The project will develop an understanding of land-use and land management options that enhance the environment, and of market and value-chain opportunities to support the implementation of changes required.
“We have a dedicated team of passionate people who care about healthy ecosystems and community wellbeing.”— Prue Kane, Knowledge into Action for Te Taiao project lead
In order to revitalise te Taiao, Te Tiriti o Waitangi principles of partnership, participation and protection need to be at the forefront to establish genuine, meaningful relationships with Ngā Hapū mana whenua of Ngai Tahu, Waitaha and Ngāti Māmoe.
WAI Wānaka is committed to developing relationships with Ngā Rūnaka mana whenua within the Upper Clutha, to establish pathways to help revitalise te Taiao.
WAI Wānaka chair Mandy Bell expects it will take time to develop, strengthen and maintain engagement with tangata whenua. This is a journey that will be closely guided by the support of the Revitalise te Taiao leadership team, who each hold key strengths within te ao Pākehā and te ao Māori, science and mātauranga Māori. Understanding how Treaty principles need to be applied in action is a journey WAI Wānaka is determined to get right.
Banner photo: Prof Rich McDowell with the Revitalise Te Taiao team at Criffel Station, Wānaka