Taking stock of the biodiversity in the Te Wherowhero lagoon

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Rongowhakaata are working with The Department of Conservation to survey the biodiversity of the coastal area of Muriwai on the East Coast. As Te Kāea discovered, its home to an endangered bird species.

The groups held a working-bee to raise awareness, to educate each other and take stock of the biodiversity in the Te Wherowhero lagoon.

DOC employee Jamie Quirk says, “The idea of the bio-blitz is to establish what we have in these unique parts of New Zealand and allow people to find those things and understand them.”

Soraya Pohatu of Rongowhakaata says, “It's changing the behaviours of what occurs down here and using some of the plants to help filter the water to make it cleaner so that the kai that's here can survive.”

This area is home to the dotterel, of which DOC estimates there to be only 1600 left. It's also home to the bar-tailed godwit.

“This is where they nest, this is where they feed and that's part of our NZ biodiversity and we all need to be proud of it and look after it,” says Quirk.

The Te Wherowhero coastal area is a traditional source of food for both Rongowhakaata and Ngāi Tāmanuhiri iwi.

The area has direct historical connections to the arrival of Horouta and Tākitimu waka.

Dean Hawkins of Rongowhakaata says some of the traditional local delicacies that may be found there include, “Kanae, Pātiki, Pipi, Tuangi and Kahawai.”

Pohatu says, “Activities that we've been able to do here as young children go to the beach, get kai, would be here for the next generation and the next and the next.”

DOC says it's about making people aware of how their own actions impact upon the biodiversity of the environment.

“We come down to the beaches, we bring our kids, we bring our dogs, we go fishing and in that period of time kids run around, dogs run around and they disturb the birds that are nesting and, therefore, those eggs don't hatch,” says Quirk.

Pohatu says they are now planning for the next ten years.