Digital stories encourage talks on lake health in Wairarapa

By Te Ao - Māori News

Lake Wairarapa.

A new website brings together Māori and Pākehā histories of Wairarapa lakes to encourage conversations about lake health and wellbeing.

The website Wairarapa Moana Pūrākau Kete includes short documentaries, audio recordings, photography and art to share stories of the lakes.

The website features local experts and community members whose lives have been shaped by lakes and waterways.

The project is a part of Cawthron Institute and GNS Science's joint Lakes380 research programme which aims to weave together different forms of knowledge, ranging from traditional science and local history.

Some of these stories include how Ngāti Kahungunu handed Lake Wairarapa to the Crown in 1896, the battle to control Lake Onoke’s opening and the return of the lake bed to Māori through treaty settlements.

The stories provide humanity

Environment manager Rawiri Smith of Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa says the iwi would like to build on the project’s outcomes by creating a living record for all waterways in Wairarapa.

“These lake stories have provoked thinking, encouraging behaviour change out of our common humanity rather than through confrontation or enforcement."

Project leader Charlotte Šunde of Cawthron Institute says  “Digital storytelling like this is a fairly new and very effective way of bringing lake stories to a wide audience, reaching far beyond the impact of scientific publications."

The Lakes380 project has focused on building in-depth relationships with iwi in the Wairarapa and Rangitīkei, with different styles of engagement being adopted in each rohe that reflect the relationships formed and the unique priorities for each iwi.