Community catchment groups throughout New Zealand will receive funding to test a waterway in their region to discover more about the plants and animals living in it.
The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has partnered with NZ Landcare Trust and Wilderlab to fund the initiative, enabling 19 community catchment groups to take part.
Groups will test for environmental DNA, or eDNA, which is the tiny trace of genetic material left behind as living things pass through water or soil.
EPA general manger engagement Paula Knaap said rural groups see many benefits from learning more about their waterways.
“Through eDNA, they might learn about native fish living in a stream, for instance. These fish aren’t always easy to see, so eDNA results give a clearer picture and allow groups to better manage their waterways.
“Our eDNA programme supplements a lot of the restoration work catchment groups are already doing such as riparian planting, stream health assessments, restoration of mauri of awa and kaitiakitanga.”
“Most of the funding for the groups will go toward baseline testing – getting an overview of what lives in their streams and catchments.”
Knaap said the funding round is an opportunity for the EPA to connect and build relationships with catchment groups, and the rural sector.
Many catchment groups involve farmers and other members of the agricultural community. Landcare Trust has been working with the EPA to connect the programme to rural communities.
The trust’s Waikato catchments co-ordinator, Ric Balfour, said a key role for the organisation is to support farmers, iwi and landcare groups in gaining access to innovations like eDNA testing.
Te Wairua o te Moananui – Ocean Spirit received funding to deepen its understanding of the biodiversity in the Church Bay wairepo.
“We are very enthusiastic about gaining knowledge about what is, and is not, in our wairepo, or wetland,” said group spokesperson Alison Giblin.
“This means we can prioritise our conservation efforts to provide passage and habitat for the species we hope will inhabit the wetland again.
“Ko te wai te ora o ngā mea katoa (water is the life-giver of all things).”
Wilderlab testing laboratory developed and supplies the sampling kits. The lab analyses and sequences samples and sends the results back to the groups within a month. Groups can make their data publicly available on Wilderlab’s interactive map.
The projects receiving funding are: Waipari Mātuku – Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Waiora and Wai Ora River Care – Waikato; Whangara Community Catchment eDNA project – Gisborne; Te Urewera to Whakapunake – Guardians of the Ruakituri – Gisborne; Kaimai Mamaku Restoration Project eDNA – Manaaki Kaimai Mamaku Trust – Bay of Plenty; Food for Whio – Eastern Whio Link, Upper Waioeka Catchment Group, Mātāwai – Gisborne; Te Wairoa Ecological Baseline Survey – Friends of Te Wairoa Catchment Incorporated – Auckland; eDNA sampling throughout the Pomahaka Catchment – Pomahaka Water Care Group – Otago; Baseline eDNA sampling post-Cyclone Gabrielle – Te Mana o te Wai kei waenganui ngā awa ō te Ngaruroro i te Tūtaekurī Between the Two Rivers Community Catchment Collective (B2R) – Hawke’s Bay; Pāuatahanui Stream Catchment – Pāuatahanui Freshwater Catchment Community – Kāpiti; Wairepo Moemoeaa – Te Wairua o Te Moananui – Ocean Spirit – Northland; Testing our Freshwater – Ahuriri Tributaries Catchment Group – Hawke’s Bay; Waionehu Catchment Group – Northland; From the Mountains to the Sea / mai i nga maunga ki te moana – Friends of the Otahū Catchment Area Inc – Waikato; Tarawera Impact Collective – Te Arawa Lakes Trust – Bay of Plenty; Avon Valley Restoration Project – Avon Valley Catchment Group – Marlborough; The Lumsden Streams Health Project – Southland; Waingongoro Awa Restoration Project – Waingongoro Catchment and Waimarama Marae – Hawke’s Bay; Waiōtahe Water Care extension program – Waiōtahe Water Care Inc – Bay of Plenty; Mai te Maunga ki te Moana – Okahu Hapū, Ngāruahine Iwi- Taranaki.