This is the third issue of the Ngā Tautohe a Rangiriri, an occasional newsletter concerning an iwi/hapū-inspired research project called Te Kawa Waiora. The purpose of this project is to explore the iwi, hapū, whānau and marae contribution to improving the Wairoa River, its tributaries, and its environs.
Rangiriri is a taniwha in the Wairoa River, and he was one of the original protestors objecting to its deterioration. Hence, we have called this newsletter Ngā Tautohe a Rangiriri, the protests of Rangiriri. Our research, this newsletter, and the collected voices of the hau kāinga of the Wairoa River continue his fervent protest as we aim to return health and mauri to our river.

Just as the river starts as a small stream and flows to the ocean, so our project flows and expands with increasing energy and purpose.

Deep in the rēpō
Our hui wānanga made a welcome return in April and June when the Hikurangi Rēpō (swamp) – once considered to be among the biggest wetlands in the southern hemisphere – provided a recurring theme.

At the first hui, hosted by Te Orewai (a hapū of Ngāti Hine) and held at the the historic Tau Henare Marae, Pipīwai, on April 17-18, it was asserted that a substantial proportion of sediment reaching the Wairoa River daily was sourced in the swamp. Consequently, it was agreed, it would not be possible to improve the Wairoa River without first addressing the issue of the Hikurangi Rēpō.

This point was strongly reiterated at our most recent hui at Whakapara Marae on June 26, when we visited Rushbrook Road, one of seven pump stations situated on the swamp. The swamp is an enormous area that was once a complete rēpō system, when it was known as the “food bowl of the hapū”. It has since been comprehensively drained to make way for farmland, and only minor remnant wetlands remain.

Ngāti Hau laments the change that has taken place in this area and its depleted, poor condition. The purpose of the pump station at Rushbrook Road is to remove water during significant flooding events and protect farmlands. Each water pump station is located on huge channels dug into the earth to straighten waterways and drain water away from adjacent farmland. This process has proved incredibly invasive and impactful upon the landscape.

One of the key issues Ngāti Hau raised during the visit was the destruction of tuna, which swim into the pump stations. They are greatly concerned about this and are working with the local authorities to assist in its prevention. Ngāti Hau have a deep-felt desire to continue to be able to serve healthy local tuna on their wharekai table as an expression of their mana whenua.

Some of the Whakapara Hui wānanga attendees at the pump station on Rushbrook Road, including Te Rā Nehua of Ngāti Hau and our lead researcher Charles Royal (centre)
Down by the river
One of the many highlights of our two-day hui in Pipīwai were visits to Te Hoanga – located at the confluence of the stream that flows from Hikurangi with the Kaikou River – and Rāhui Kurī, a pā site, where Te Orewai are in the process of reclaiming as much knowledge as possible about its history, while developing a plan for its future.

The visits were enlivened by a fascinating talk from Barry Peihopa, who is closely connected to Te Hoanga and has spent much time researching the rich history and traditions of the awa and its environs. We learned that the area was used traditionally as a place to work and fashion stone, and this was reflected in the name Te Hoanga (named after the wetting stone, pictured below), which literally means “the fashioning”. Sandstone, which can be found here in the water, is traditionally referred to as Hine-tua-hoanga and is a stone used in the sharpening and shaping of other kinds of stone.

Barry Peihopa sharing his whakaaro on the Kaikou River, with the Te Hoanga stone (wetting stone) pictured below in the awa

Te Orewai are currently undertaking extensive work to improve the health and wellbeing of the Pipīwai environment. This includes a major planting programme and an ongoing monitoring project, which studies water quality, temperature, pH levels and freshwater species
Growing the research
The completion of three new in-depth documents by researcher Robyn Kāmira, and another seven interviews conducted by Hineāmaru Davies-Lyndon, have added substantially to Te Kawa Waiora’s growing body of work.

The working papers, authored by Robyn, are: Deeper Themes Related to Traditional Tangata Whenua View of The River; Hikurangi Swamp and Ōmiru/Wairua Falls Dam; and Tāporapora Scientific Evidence. These documents support the literature review that was completed last year.

By recently completing seven interviews, Hineāmaru has increased our total to 22 in all. These face-to-face interviews with Kaumātua, and other knowledgeable people from the region, provide the heart and soul of our research project and the story-based kōrero.

Iwi, hapū research training continues to thrive
A key component of our project revolves around growing the capability of iwi, hapū and marae-based researchers. As such, we have continued to provide regular opportunities for training and have held three full-day sessions over the past three months.

Critical thinking is an essential capability for independent (mana Motuhake) self-sustaining, self-managing communities, and these workshops have proved invaluable for those wanting to undertake and perfect the art of research.

About Te Kawa Waiora
The principal research objectives are to:

  • Address questions of importance to the iwi, hapū and whānau communities of the rivers as the basis by which their contribution to increasing the health, wellbeing and mauri of the rivers may be achieved.
  • Enable the development of meaningful knowledge derived from mātauranga Māori which can be used to inform farm environment plans of the Wairoa Catchment – these are a critical mechanism by which tangible change in the environment can be achieved.

The project continues until December 2021 – for more information contact

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