Ahuriri Lagoon project underway

Whakaora Te Ahuriri lagoon

The Co-Governors of Te Waihora / Lake Ellesmere (Environment Canterbury, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, Selwyn District Council and Christchurch City Council) today announced the start of a $3.5-million project for a new wetland and improved habitat to ensure the future of mahinga kai in the Ahuriri Lagoon and downstream Huritini/Halswell River.

The project is funded by the Government’s Freshwater Improvement Fund, Environment Canterbury, and NIWA.

Co-Chairs Steve Lowndes (Environment Canterbury) and Lisa Tumahai (Ngāi Tahu) said the project would improve water quality, biodiversity and mahinga kai values in the currently drained and degraded Ahuriri Lagoon and downstream Huritini/Halswell River, also providing a pathway to improve the water quality of the associated catchments feeding Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere.

“This will be achieved by constructing a wetland fed by the Huritini/Halswell River that will improve water quality by reducing nutrient and sediment passage and creating an open water area designed for mahinga kai with adjacent riparian planting restoring the Lagoon’s function for both Ngāi Tahu and the local community,” the Co-Chairs said.

The design of the constructed wetland has been developed with input from rūnanga, the Ahuriri Lagoon Steering Group (representing the community, including neighbouring farmers), consultants, officials and staff.  Resource consents will be sought before the wetland is constructed.

Improving water quality, biodiversity and mahinga kai values

The project also has a Mātauranga Māori monitoring programme to gauge the changing value of the site for iwi, and an applied research component to measure improvements in water quality.

Ahuriri is a site of great significance for Ngāi Tahu and has a long history as a mahinga kai resource for Ngāi Tahu whānau.

The wetland is being set up as a demonstration site to show what can be achieved with constructed wetlands for nutrient “stripping”, meaning intensive monitoring and demonstrating results to landowners in the catchment.

“By 2020 this project will see the constructed wetland completed, followed by improved water quality, biodiversity and mahinga kai values,” the Co-Chairs said.

“This is one project in the Whakaora Te Waihora programme to help achieve our long-term goals associated with Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere.  The project will give us significant knowledge that we can transfer to other areas of the lake and around Aotearoa.

“It will allow us to showcase the impact wetlands can play on the surrounding ecosystem, acting as ‘kidneys’, the Co-Chairs concluded.  “Funding received from central government will help us greatly towards reaching our objectives for this important ecosystem.”

Watch the drone footage below which follows the flight path we regularly fly to show the progress on the project.