The project

Otago Regional Council is partnering with Kāti Huirapa Rūnaka ki Puketeraki to restore and enhance the mauri and health of this important East Otago river system. For Kāi Tahu, the river was an important kāika mahika kai (food gathering settlement) where tuna (eels), pātiki (flounders) and īnaka (whitebait) were abundant. Today’s diverse community, whose own history, connection, and livelihood are tied to this catchment, are important collaborators in the success of this project.

Together, there is a journey to create a catchment restoration action plan to inspire us to sustain the awa. The plan aims to enhance the wider ecosystem, improve water quality by reducing the amount of sediment and nutrient input to the rivers and estuary, and use the best of Kāi Tahu mātauraka (knowledge) and modern science to sustain our efforts.


Toitu Te Hakapupu


About the work

The catchment restoration action plan will be a living document with long-term goals. Some of the work we have planned to gather information to support decision-making is:

  • Establishing environmental baselines and developing a water quality monitoring framework that could be supported through community science
  • Identifying sites where the most sediment and/or nutrients are getting into the river and working with landowners to find ways to reduce the effects on water quality. One of the ways to reduce sediment and nutrient movement is to fence off stream edges and plant native trees to stabilise banks
  • Identifying barriers to fish movement and making sure they protect our native fish species
  • Working with landowners to develop sediment management plans to help reduce sediment and nutrient input into the water

Some work throughout the project will require the services of ORC experts, and some, the hardworking members of the community, including collaborating with the East Otago Catchment Group and local landowners.

Some of the contracts we have in place to complete the project work:

  • Plants are being grown and supplied by Kāti Huirapa Rūnaka ki Puketeraki’s community nursery and Ribbonwood Nurseries
  • Aukaha have a team who will carry out the planting
  • We have five fencing contractors on a panel who will complete fencing works for the project
  • Ahikā Consulting are leading the technical work to assess water quality and support the rūnaka and community in setting visions and goals for their catchment



Te Hakapupu open day

Planning for the future

This four-year work programme will focus on improvements to water quality, safe fish passage, and a catchment restoration action plan co-developed with the rūnaka that the community will adopt as its own, but it will also look to better protect biodiversity and natural water resources in the area.

Working side by side with local rūnaka, we want to find appropriate ways to collaborate with community and industry in the catchment identifying work needing to be done while reflecting community aspirations.

This may include:

  • Hearing the stories of those who identify strongly with the area, the estuary, or the river
  • Creating and attending events to help build a community vision for this project
  • Providing and listening to information

Over the next year, we will also gather baseline data on the catchment to better understand sediment and nutrient movement, fish habitat and water quality issues. This will help guide activities to improve water quality.


What can you do on the ground to help?

There are many ways you can protect precious waterways.

Planting, controlling pests and weeds or creating habitat will enhance biodiversity and attract more native animals (birds, lizards, and invertebrates) to your area, improving their chances of survival.

  • Take care when applying fertilisers and pesticides
  • Plant trees on hills and near streams to reduce land run-off
  • Manage stock more efficiently by fencing off streams and waterways to reduce direct water contamination
  • Avoid overusing water in dry seasons
  • Retire marginal land or change land uses (e.g., pasture to forest)
  • Careful planning of subdivisions and urban growth for minimal impact on neighbouring waterways
  • Continued removal and control of pests and invasive species including weeds and pest plants
  • A plant maintenance guide for landowners and others involved in the project can be found here



Otago Regional Council Project Delivery Specialist – Jobs for Nature

Melanie White
Tel 027 357 2568

Kāti Huirapa Rūnaka ki Puketeraki Representative

Katharina Ruckstuhl

East Otago Catchment Group

Steph Scott
el 027 438 7875

Page last updated 11 July 2024.