River restoration: Waikato Masters Kris Taipeti talks about research he’s doing which will help restore fisheries and habitat on the Waikato River.
A University of Waikato masters student, Kristopher Taipeti, has been working with the Te Arawa River Iwi Trust (TARIT) on the health, restoration and maintenance of the Waikato River from Huka Falls to Atiamuri.
Kris is one of two Waikato science students who've been taking part in the university's Te Āhurutanga Māori Student Leadership Programme, where, as part of the programme, students must take on a community or iwi project.
Kris, from Rotorua, has worked with TARIT to gather historical information about fishing on the river, interviewing iwi, carrying out stream surveys and reading early accounts of fishing in the area. "It's to help TARIT set some high-level objectives as they work to restore fisheries and habitat," he says.
"We wanted to find out where people fished, what methods they used, and how fishing conditions and locations have changed. We also wanted to find out how important their freshwater fishery was to them - and the answer is that fishing is a big part of their identity, so if they lost the ability to fish, they would lose their identity."
Kris presented his findings at a seminar that brought together all 14 students involved in the campus-wide Maori Leadership Programme. Throughout last year the students came together to learn about tikanga, sharpen their te reo and learn about aspects of leadership.
"It's given me confidence," says Kris. "I've learnt a lot about my tikanga and also discovered I still have a lot to learn about different aspects of my culture. I've met some good people too, and my te reo has improved."
The research Kris did for TARIT will also assist his masters study. He’s studying fish behaviour, and in particular the smells (pheromones) that native fish find attractive. "If we know what smells fish are drawn to, or swim away from, then we could use that information to attract migrating fish into new waterways, as well as help with planting initiatives and other aspects of restoration."
Waikato University's Māori Student Leadership Programme is co-ordinated by staff in the office of the Pro Vice-Chancellor Maori. This year, student projects included a Māori approach to the flouride debate, organising free te reo classes for beginners, and developing health and wellbeing of the families on Matakana Island.