Breadcrumbs

Celebrating Lakes Resilience

6 September 2019

Dr Chris Tanner (NIWA), Associate Professor Maui Hudson, Tim Manakau
Members of the research project team include Dr Chris Tanner (NIWA), Associate Professor Maui Hudson, and Tim Manakau, Deputy Director, Te Waiora Joint Institute for Freshwater Management.

A four-year MBIE-funded research programme led by the University’s Environmental Research Institute and School of Science comes to an end this year.

To celebrate the research success of Enhancing Health and Resilience of New Zealand Lakes, the University hosted the latest in the series of Lakes Resilience Symposiums last week. It proved to be the most popular yet, with more than 100 attendees from all over New Zealand. The audience was about half researchers and half representatives of councils, government, agencies, iwi and communities.

Professor Troy Baisden has taken over leadership of the research programme and the Lakes Ecosystem Research New Zealand (LERNZ) team. The group includes scientists from Waikato and Otago universities, NIWA, GNS Science and Nelson’s Cawthron Institute with input from local and regional councils and other organisations with an interest in lake research and restoration.

Troy kicked off the day’s proceedings by reviewing the causes of freshwater decline, and how a greater focus on informing decisions and enables actions and investment can make a difference for restoring lakes. This set the stage for a day of diverse presentations, as well as displays set up in foyer.

The day’s programme comprised a subset of the LERNZ research outputs, which just in the last year have included the publication of a Lake Restoration Handbooka journal special issue, a total of 41 journal papers and book chapters, and 22 commissioned reports.

Major topics covered data acquisition and visualisation, ecological and hydrodynamic models, resilience theory, and new technologies and applications for measuring harmful cyanobacterial blooms, monitoring lakes over time and detecting invasive fish detection.

An interactive survey tool showed that the audience felt a highlight of the day was the competition for being best at detecting invasive fish, with PhD student Melissa Collins' sniffer dogs winning over new but less charismatic eDNA technology.

A big question is what’s next for the LERNZ team? The audience survey also recorded that more research should focus more on the combined effects of climate change and land use on lake ecosystems. Troy’s appointment two years ago as the Bay of Plenty Regional Council Chair in Lake and Freshwater Science is in line with this, and signals more focus on land use in the lake catchments, and on improving key points of decision making at the science/policy interface across major issues, including climate change.

In his opening address, Troy highlighted that efforts to cap and then reduce nutrients impacting Lakes Taupō and Rotorua have been world leading. The success factors have included millions in government investment and policies embedding structured scientific assessment into adaptive management in the lake catchments.

A challenge facing future research as the Ministry for the Environment announces major freshwater policy reforms this Thursday will be the expectation that future investment won’t primarily be from Government. This sets up a situation where imposition of “polluter pays” or similar policies can either build confusion and pain, or pave a path for major investment in more sustainable land use.

Troy says we will have a major opportunity to define research across disciplines that clarifies how to build certainty and leadership along sustainable investment pathways. “There’s a big challenge to define and prove what works while we’re still figuring it out.” But he also points out that everyone with the interest to attend the symposium or participate in research or action can help in some way.

“The university is uniquely placed at the heart of this issue because iwi rights and interests range from farming and forestry to looking after ecological health as mana whenua.” Troy suggests the principles emanating from Te Ao Māori will balance and inform iwi positions in freshwater governance arising from Te Tiriti, and will have greater importance when they also guide national and regional policies enabling stable investment in a sustainable future.

The four-year research programme laid down foundational pieces for this effort, including those described in Associate Professor Maui Hudson’s presentation framing six targets to achieve enhanced Māori leadership in data-driven decision making related to freshwater and te Mana o te Wai.

Maui’s work feeds directly into development of the programme’s geospatial interface on the innovative Takiwā platform, which was on display on interactive stations at the symposium. Describing the Takiwā Lakes platform, CEO and business strategist Mike Taitoko used his presentation to describe how our geospatial data visualisation can accelerate transformative solutions between farmers, Māori and government.

Latest stories

Related stories

It's time to care about our insects

Dr Chrissie Painting, along with 70 other researchers from 21 countries, are calling for immediate…

University education researchers receive over $822,000 in research funding

Three research projects involving Waikato researchers have received funding from the Teaching and Learning Research…

RH Innovation

Student-owned agri-tech startup gains business boost from Microsoft

A student-based agri-tech startup company that has developed an inventive way to measure moisture, salinity…

Louis Schipper & Vic Arcus

Waikato researchers aim to find out what happens to life as the world heats up

A large research project that seeks to understand how biology responds to increasing temperature could…

Professor Bryony James appointed new Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research at Waikato

Professor Bryony James has been appointed as the new Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research at the University…

Waikato Volcanologist confirms volcano and secures international conference in 2019

University of Waikato volcanologist, Dr Adrian Pittari, led a team that recently found evidence confirming…

 Dr Alison Campbell

Science educator named Honorary Fellow by the University of Waikato

A long-standing University of Waikato academic and science communicator has been named an Honorary Fellow…

Leading Plant Physiologist Professor Margaret Barbour welcomed as Dean of Science at University of Waikato

Professor Margaret Barbour has been welcomed as the new Dean of Science at a whakatau…

Michèle Prinsep

Waikato academic ranked in top one per cent in the world for research citations

A University of Waikato researcher who identifies compounds in marine species which could be used…

Professor Troy Baisden

Professor named new president of the New Zealand Association of Scientists (NZAS)

Professor Troy Baisden, who is based in School of Science at the University of Waikato,…

Sharna McCleary

Science student uses mushrooms to help clean up Whakatāne canal

Oyster mushrooms are helping to clean up an historically contaminated timber processing site in Whakatāne,…

Project to investigate earthquake frequency and activity on Hamilton’s faults

Newly discovered hidden faults in Hamilton, an area once thought devoid of any active faults,…