As New Zealanders we are all familiar with whitebait; they are a highly valued mahinga kai and many partake in the passionate pastime of whitebaiting. Historically, Christchurch’s rivers were renowned for their whitebait/inaka spawning; early Pākehā settlers called them ‘cow fish’ because the spawning turned the rivers white like milk. Since these ‘heydays’ spawning in Christchurch has declined greatly, while the more recent 2011 earthquakes increased uncertainty as to where inaka spawn due to a shift in the saltwater wedge.
In the largest initiative of its kind, Whaka Inaka aims to improve spawning success by providing temporary spawning habitat (straw bales) along 3 km of riverbank in the Heathcote/Ōpāwaho and Avon/Ōtākaro Rivers, and to monitor them closely during the breeding season. In partnership with Ngāi Tahu, we aim to improve mahinga kai values in local waterways. This has been a priority concern for Ngāi Tahu in the earthquake recovery process as it is a longstanding tribal aphorism that healthy lands and waters build and sustain healthy communities… Linking with a University of Canterbury/Waterways Centre for Freshwater Management research project, we will help identify potential spawning locations and assist in the longer-term goal of permanently restoring inaka spawning habitat.
Whaka Inaka is also about people. The involvement of local business, schools, and community is a chance for people to be involved in a project that will cause positive changes to the natural places within our city. Through celebrating our findings using a range of communication techniques, we can also ensure that the project outputs are greater than the spawning benefits alone.
Whaka Inaka is a collaboration between EOS Ecology (project lead), Ngai Tahu (Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu and Ngai Tuahuriri tangata tiaki), and the University of Canterbury (School of Biological Sciences). Find out more and follow the project on Facebook (search ‘whaka inaka’).
For the advancement of scientific and technical objectives in Canterbury & Westland, New Zealand.