The Kaituna River Re-diversion and Te Awa o Ngatoroirangi / Maketū Estuary Enhancement Project was announced this week as the 2020 winner of the Terry Healy Coastal Project Award from the New Zealand Coastal Society (NZCS).
The award acknowledges a coastal project which has made a significant contribution to New Zealand’s coastal and marine environment and is the second award for excellence that the project has received in the last six months.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council Coastal Catchments Manager Pim De Monchy said that pivotal to the project’s success was the long-term commitment and persistence of all of those involved in calling for the project, securing the funding, recreating the wetland and returning an average of 600,000 cubic metres of the Kaituna River’s freshwater flows to the estuary every tidal cycle.
“None of this could have been achieved without the collaboration and partnership of tangata whenua, landowners, and the wider community.
“By working together and standing on the shoulders of those who have worked on this kaupapa in the past, we are helping to solve some really complex environmental and social challenges for the long term benefit of the estuary,” Mr De Monchy said.
WSP Technical Principal of Planning, Steph Brown who presented the project at the NZ Coastal Society’s webinar event, also remarked that the design and environmental assessments undertaken involved collaborative input from a broad range of engineering, environmental, social and cultural specialists.
“The success of the project demonstrates that applying sound engineering practice supported by scientific knowledge and community input can achieve great things. The project is a major step toward addressing past modifications that have led to the declining health of the estuary over time,” said Ms Brown.
Collaboration with iwi was critical to the success of the project, with seven iwi groups directly involved and four separate cultural impact assessments undertaken. This approach ensured that the project also contributed to the restoration of cultural knowledge and the mauri of the river and estuary.
Presenting at the NZ Coastal Society’s webinar Liam Te Wherowhero Tapihana, Ngāti Whakaue reinforced that if you work with nature, it will heal itself.
“Early on we’ve seen some changes and it’s great to see the recovery. Shellfish including tuangi (cockles) and titiko (mud snails) have already started returning to the estuary.
We have a saying, Ko au te awa, ko te awa ko au – we are the river and the river is us. The early signs of recovery in the estuary give us all hope for the long term health of the environment and people of the Maketū area,” Mr Tapihana explained.
Further monitoring and work on the Kaituna awa and its catchments is planned in the coming years to support a thriving community and environment through the Te Tini a Tuna – the Kaituna River Action Plan.
Further information about the Kaituna River re-diversion and Te Awa o Ngātoroirangi / Maketū Estuary Enhancement Project, please visit the project page.