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Waimata perceptions sought

Aiming to investigate the values and relations between Gisborne residents and the Waimata River and how those relations shape perceptions of restoration is the goal of a University of Auckland masters student’s research.

The study is being conducted by Danielle Cairns for her Masters of Science (environmental science) degree.

The research is supervised by Professor Gary Brierley and Dr Gretel Boswijk.

It is focused on the Waimata River and the restoration project that is being undertaken in the catchment.

The Waimata River is a historically significant river in multiple ways and relates to the identity of Gisborne.

“It has always played a role in the community, used historically for transport purposes by local iwi and is still used for many activities such as waka ama, kayaking, walking and farming practices,” Ms Cairns said.

“Although the majority of human engagement and activity occurs at the river mouth and the port, people live along and interact with it all the way to its source. What happens at the mouth of the river is also dependent on what happens at the source,” she said.

“Therefore we aim to uncover these important social connections to the river.”

Professor Brierley has been working on Waimata River for the past few years along with Dame Anne Salmond and Dr Dan Hikuroa from the University of Auckland on Te Awaroa: 1000 Rivers Project.

“The School of Environment has been coming down to Gisborne for an undergraduate research paper for the last few years so I was first introduced to the river several years ago.”

Other objectives are to look at any similarities and differences in responses across different groups in the catchment.

These are defined in four location-based groups: the upper catchment (along and upstream of Waimata Valley Road), upper-mid catchment (along and upstream of Riverside Road), lower catchment (Gisborne town area) and outside of the catchment (other river users).

“We are also assessing residents’ and river users’ aspirations for the Waimata River moving forwards, what they define as a ‘healthy’ Waimata River and investigating the existence of a relationship between river health and public wellbeing.”

The study consists of an online questionnaire which has been distributed across the catchment and to groups that may interact with the river and semi-structured interviews with a few of the residents and river users.

“It gives the opportunity to voice personal values and stories of the Waimata River.

“We are currently in the process of receiving questionnaire responses and would love to hear from other residents and river users if they have not completed the questionnaire.

“We are planning another visit to Gisborne in late November to hold a workshop to present findings from my research and that of another master’s student, Khendra Harvey, also focused on what the Waimata River gives back to the community.

The survey can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/y5qkykeq

The survey closes on Sunday, September 6 and interviews will begin in the next few weeks.

RESEARCHING THE RIVER: Auckland University student Danielle Cairns is researching people’s relations to the Waimata River. Picture by Liam Clayton