Protecting resources drives new iwi representative

Being able to gather mahinga kai and improving the quality of local waterways are key issues for Kaiapoi business owner John Cooke who has recently joined the Waimakariri Zone Committee as a Ngāi Tūāhuriri representative.

“I went to the public meetings last year to learn more about the issues facing our streams and rivers and decided to get involved. I am from a traditional fishing family and gathering mahinga kai is really important for us.”

John remembers an abundance of fish in local rivers when he was younger along with higher flows of water.

“In my lifetime the availability of whitebait and other fish has become less and less. We had a lot more water in the rivers too. My brothers have been fishing since they were about nine years old and it’s really concerning to see the lack of fish in our rivers these days.”

For John, mahinga kai gathering is not just about collecting food, but is the means of passing on culture and history to the next generation.

“Being able to go out there and learn about our culture by taking part in traditional activities is how we teach the younger ones about our history. If the water is polluted and we don’t have any fish, then it’s impossible.”

Waimakariri Irrigation Limited (WIL) CEO Brent Walton says protecting and enhancing mahinga kai values is an important focus for shareholders.

“Under PC5 we are obliged to meet an additional target relating to the management and enhancement of sites which contain mahinga kai. WIL is working closely with shareholders to help them understand these new requirements and we’re confident that they will be able to protect and enhance these sites.

“For us, it’s not just an obligation, it’s something we’re passionate about as mahinga kai is important for all of us. Our Burgess’s Stream biodiversity project will look at how we can improve in-stream cultural and eco-system values.”

Having a variety of people from different backgrounds involved in the zone committee is a positive for John, along with access to technical and scientific material to understand complex issues facing streams and rivers.

“Everyone who is involved is positive and wants to improve local waterways. We all have the same ultimate goal. It’s a good forum to hear people’s concerns and we have great resources available to us.”

For John, the timeframe for making changes is concerning as he would like to see new limits introduced faster and farmers who are already doing the right thing to be acknowledged.

“Our feeling is that the timeline is too long. We need to move faster. I would also like to see some incentives for farmers who have already reduced their levels of nitrates.”

John is looking forward to upcoming site visits to see progress being made at Silverstream and believes that the catchment management plans will be a positive vehicle for change.

“Getting out there and seeing what’s being done is really important. Looking at key issues from a local level with the catchment plans will help us make progress towards improving our streams and rivers.”