Photography exhibition seeks environmental action

updated By Talisa Kupenga

A new photography exhibition by Ngāti Porou's Natalie Robertson talks about the importance of freshwater planting to maintain the life force of waterways. He Wai Mou! He Wai Mau! spans the Waiapu at the East Coast and Mangere's Tararata stream.

Photographer Natalie Robertson says, "my exhibition today speaks to environmental changes that have occurred in the Waiapu River in the last 130 or so years, and in 2014 Ngāti Porou signed the Waiapu River Accord, so I'm very interested in what can I offer to generations further down the track."

21 photos and four visual clips depict the waterways by air, by kayak or alongside the waters' edge. A lament tells the story of an ancestor who took to the Waiapu post-flood despite warnings. He drowned and was found at the river mouth entangled in driftwood.

Robertson says "the mōteatea (lament) speaks about the species of fish that are in the river and the driftwood at the river mouth and I thought the mōteatea became a vehicle where we can act in some ways as a search party following Pahoe, looking for him, and noting the environmental changes that occur as we do so."

Vision by Robertson shows man-made interventions, persistent erosion, and deforested banks. A planting at Tararata next month ties to her message; she hopes it improves conditions there for whitebait to spawn.

"I'm hoping that we're at the bottom of a cycle; we had the mauri (life force) of the river and it was strong and it's come down to the lower point that it's at now and I'm hoping with the accords that we're signing we can pull it back up through restoration and strengthening the mauri."

The Mangere Arts Centre exhibition ends September 2. The Tararata planting is open to the public.