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A passion for aquaculture

LIVING and growing up in Te Tairawhiti, it seems natural to develop a love for marine and coastal life.

For Gisborne’s Lisa Collins, coastal marine aquaculture is her absolute passion.

Her love for the sea goes beyond enjoying what it provides for us, and extends into “kaitiakitanga” — environmental guardianship.

The busy mum-of-three is working on turning her passion into a full-time career, so that it will benefit her whanau, hapu and iwi.

Lisa, who is of Te Whanau a Ruataupare descent, is currently on a six-month internship at Gisborne District Council (GDC).

She is working in the water and coastal team, and the environmental monitoring and hydrology team.

“I am very passionate about marine coastal aquaculture.

“My role is to absorb and learn as many practices as possible to take back to my iwi.”

These practices include learning about, and assisting with, a range of water quality and quantity monitoring roles — particularly around groundwater.

She monitors the Managed Aquifer Recharge trial each week, as well as groundwater levels around Gisborne and across the Turanga flats. She has also been involved in meeting with irrigators about water meter readings, and assists to ensure there is good accurate data of water use.

The internship began in August, but it all came about through the Horouta Wananga Collective, Whanau Ora initiative.

On her pathwayAthena Emmerson of Te Runanga o Turanganui a Kiwa is one of the Whanau Ora kaiarahi that helped Lisa get on her pathway.

“Whanau Ora is about empowering whanau by building a relationship with them, resourcing them and helping them to manage themselves,” says Athena.

“We look for ways to help them get into further study and employment.

“I knew Lisa had an interest and background in aquaculture and marine studies.

“In Whanau Ora, we work on empowering whanau by getting them involved in mahi (work or study) that they have an interest in.

“We had an opportunity to join in with Fresh Water Hui with Rongowhakaata and Ngai Tamanuhiri. I approached GDC chief executive Nedine Thatcher-Swann to ask if there was an opportunity available for Lisa, even for work experience.

“They came up with the idea of an internship, which has been an awesome way of bringing Lisa back into an environment that she loves,” said Athena.

“If people are involved in something that they have a passion for, and it supports the well-being of their whanau, the likelihood of enrichment and fulfilment is greater.

“Lisa is a good example of this type of success.”

She was also well equipped to take up the internship, with a Diploma in Iwi Marine Studies already in her resume.

She completed an aquaculture course through Turanga Ararau, as well as a diving course.

All of this was done while she raised her family.

Lisa says Whanau Ora has enabled her to continue pursuing marine aquaculture alongside her whanau aspirations.

“My children are on this journey with me.

“They are really interested and I fill their heads up with plenty of information.

“They are well aware of what I do, and tell other people that I’m a marine biologist. I say no, not yet,” she laughs.

“But I can see that there is a need for more knowledge to be shared about marine coastal aquaculture, especially to our children and in schools.”

Opportunities paying offLisa has dived into the opportunities that have been presented to her, and it is paying off.

“I am forever learning. It is learning that I take passion in at the moment.

“I have had information overload at times, but I am happy to be a sponge to take in all of that information.

“Since being at GDC, it has widened my study areas and vocabulary.

“Now I have my own side-project, outside of GDC, that I am working on.

“I am assessing the numbers and species of skink/gecko found on the foreshores of the Gisborne region.”

The internship has also enabled Lisa to build relationships with people in the aquaculture industry.

“A highlight has been working with landowners and companies that GDC work with, and making good connections with them.

“The people that I work with at GDC are amazing,” she says.

“I’m learning the Resource Management Act (RMA) and the people I work around are encouraging and are always open to give advice or teach me new things.

“Everyday is a new challenge and that is what makes this job something I enjoy.

“Working with good people makes it even better.”

GDC’s director of environmental services and protection Lois Easton says Lisa has been a quiet achiever and the team is very happy with the progress she has made.

“As we move into summer we expect she will expand the range of work she is involved in, now she’s up to date with all our systems and processes,” says Lois.

Lisa says the experience has changed her for the better.

“I have grown socially and academically, and my friends and family have already told me they see the difference in me and my kids,” she says.

“I still have a lot to learn, and I’m just trying to get as much learning out of this before the internship ends in February.

“But this would not be possible without my family, who always push me; Athena, who made this happen, and GDC, for the experience and teachings they have given me.”

AQUACULTURE aspirations: Gisborne mother and intern Lisa Collins monitors the Gisborne Managed Aquifer Recharge trial, an opportunity that came about through the Whanau Ora initiative. Picture by Liam Clayton