Watch: Whitebait school project a finalist in national river awards


The story of Christchurch pupils wanting to improve ?naka/whitebait conditions in the Heathcote and Avon rivers is a River Story Award 2017 finalist.

Sixteen schools have participated in Whaka ?naka (Causing Whitebait) and the pupils have worked together with their community and iwi.

They have used what they’ve learnt to persuade their parents, their community, and the city council, to change their ways.

Changes to river bank spawning habitats meant that ?naka spawning had been declining for a long time in Christchurch. Damage wrought by the 2011 earthquakes caused further decline.

The children studied possible reasons for this decline and what could be done to improve the situation. They then presented their findings to the city council.

Te Waka Unua School pupil Sarah Nisha was part of the presenting group and said:”They were asking us lots of questions, and they were paying attention. I think if they hear it from children they will pay more attention to it.”

EOS Ecology is one of many groups that have been working with the schools.

“It has been rewarding to see the passion and enthusiasm that kids have for learning about ?naka and participating in actions for their rivers”, said Kirsty Brennan.

“By providing experiential learning programmes that share knowledge and skills, we help our future decision-makers re-connect with their natural environment”.g people to create positive change within their community.

Another EOS Ecology initiative, part of a Whitebait Connection programme-, saw 1800 children in Christchurch trained as Environment Investigators.

Environment Investigators have been popular and in 2017, there are 400 children conducting habitat assessments, taking care of ?naka in classrooms, developing action plans, and creating river groups to maintain connections with the rivers.

This is one of several stories that will be told at the 2017 NZ River Awards ceremony in Wellington on 23 November.

Cawthron Foundation, who run the awards, has identified stories where individuals, groups, businesses and communities are working together to make a positive difference to the health of our rivers and streams.

“The New Zealand River Awards were established to draw attention to the state of our rivers, but more importantly, to recognise where communities, councils, farmers and industry were achieving significant improvement in water quality in one or more of their local rivers,” said Cawthron Foundation Chair, Dr Morgan Williams.

“The health of our rivers and streams is a crucial indicator of the future well-being of environment, society and economy”.

Awards that identify the most improved rivers in each region and nationally will also be announced. The most improved rivers are determined by a panel of scientists using monitoring data from LAWA.