A vision for a restored Te Whanganui-a-Orotü

Now largely surrounded by downtown Napier, Te Whanganui-a-Orotü (the Ahuriri Estuary), has seen decades of agricultural, industrial, and urban activity that have transformed this once pristine cultural and food resource into a sink for environmental contaminants. Pushing the lagoon floor up two metres, the region’s 1931 earthquake only added to reclamation and pollution of food stocks.

To rehabilitate this resource for the local tangata whenua, Ngä Hapü o Te Whanganui-ä-Orotū, and the wider community, a clear vision for the estuary’s future is needed, says Dr James Ätaria, now working on a Ngä Pae o te Märamatanga project, He moemoeä mo Ahuriri.

This has meant gathering detailed bio-ecological information, producing a 25-year living document plan and, importantly, ending a virtual historical exclusion of the local people from active management of the resource. “The project aims to build capacity through participation of tangata whenua in the research and increasing the tangata whenua voice in management processes relating to the estuary,” James says.

Working with tangata whenua researchers, and researchers from Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, Hort Research, and ENSIS the team has engaged a range of end-users, completed biophysical fieldwork, and commenced the 25-year living document. The team has also interacted with Mäori students from Napier Girls’ High School through seminars and involvement in the fieldwork, with James saying this has been a rewarding added component of the research.