Wai Tuwhera o te Taiao – Open Waters Aotearoa reconnects communities with their waterways

Oct 9, 2023

The New Zealand EPA are re-connecting communities with their waterways through an exciting scientific discovery programme recently launched across the nation. Wai Tuwhera o te Taiao equips community groups with the tools to discover the unique ecosystems that lie beneath the ripples.

The meaning of Wai Tuwhera o te Taiao – the name was gifted to us by members of our Māori advisory network Te Herenga. It captures the concepts of “a waterway where the current carries you along” and “an enduring connection to nature, to the environment”. Literally – Wai (Water), Tuwhera(Open), Taiao (Environment)

Wai Tuwhera o te Taiao contributes to learning about and connecting with our waterways, and the value of environmental DNA (eDNA) in environmental monitoring. The programme aims to encourage place-based connections and relationships to empower communities and grow collaborative local leadership.

Video: Wai Tūwhera o te Taiao – Open Waters Aotearoa: the EPA’s eDNA community science programme

The EPA provides eDNA testing kits and resources as a tool to support connections between people and the environment, between our work and the public, and between science and mātauranga (knowledge) Māori. Working together with community groups, iwi (tribes), hapū (family groups), schools and kura (learning centres), along with organisations that share similar kaupapa (purpose), our vision of an environment protected can be realised.

Across Aotearoa New Zealand, we invite community groups to take eDNA samples from rivers, lakes, estuaries, and wetlands, to discover what species live in our waterways. The groups use special kits developed here in Aotearoa New Zealand, to collect the eDNA. We then support these groups to restore, monitor, and explore their environment through our waterways – when we learn more about our local ecosystems, we can make better decisions.

Video: Locals from Te Tairāwhiti and northern Hawke’s Bay talk about the Wai Tuwhera o te Taiao programme

Hundreds of samples from rivers, lakes, estuaries and wetlands have already been scooped up by community groups, hapū and other organisations to build an interactive map that shows the biodiversity around the country.

Find out more about Wai Tuwhera o te Taiao – Open Waters Aotearoa program including news, resources and case studies on the New Zealand EPA website.

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