NZ Landcare Trust has partnered with the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and Wilderlab to help 19 community catchment groups test a waterway in their region to discover the plants and animals living in it.

The catchment groups will test for environmental DNA, or eDNA, which is the tiny trace of genetic material left behind as living things pass through water or soil.

EPA General Manager Engagement, Paula Knaap, says rural groups see many benefits from learning more about their waterways.

“Through eDNA, they might learn about native fish living in a stream, for instance. These fish aren’t always easy to see, so eDNA results give a clearer picture and allows groups to better manage their waterways.

“Our eDNA programme supplements a lot of the restoration work catchment groups are already doing such as riparian planting, stream health assessments, restoration of mauri of awa and kaitiakitanga.

“Most of the funding for the groups will go toward baseline testing – getting an overview of what lives in their streams and catchments. Other groups will be monitoring over time or comparing different sites in their catchment. Many of the projects are led by mana whenua or are collaborations with mana whenua.”

Ms Knaap says this funding round is an opportunity for the EPA to connect and build relationships with catchment groups, and the rural sector. Many of the catchment groups involve farmers and other members of the agricultural community. NZ Landcare Trust has been working with the EPA to connect our programme to rural communities.

The Trust’s Waikato Catchments Coordinator, Ric Balfour, says: “A key role of ours is to support farmers, iwi and landcare groups in gaining access to innovations like eDNA testing, which is such a cool new tool because it makes science accessible and links results to their restoration mahi.”

Te Wairua o te Moananui – Ocean Spirit received funding to deepen their understanding of the biodiversity in the Church Bay wairepo (wetland).

The group’s spokesperson, Alison Giblin, says: “We are very enthusiastic about gaining knowledge about what is, and is not, in our wairepo, or wetland. This means we can prioritise our conservation efforts to provide passage and habitat for the species we hope will inhabit the wetland again.

“Ko te wai te ora o ngaa mea katoa (water is the life-giver of all things).”

Wilderlab testing laboratory developed and supplies the sampling kits. The lab analyses and sequences samples then sends the results back to the groups within a month. Groups can make their data publicly available on Wilderlab’s interactive map.

This funding round, EPA has allocated around 300 kits to catchment groups, thanks to contributions from Wilderlab, NZ Landcare Trust, and funding from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Unlocking Curious Minds programme.

Successful projects

  • Waipari Mātuku – Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Waiora and Wai Ora River Care – Waikato
  • Whangara Community Catchment eDNA project – Gisborne
  • Te Urewera to Whakapunake – Guardians of the Ruakituri – Gisborne
  • Kaimai Mamaku Restoration Project eDNA – Manaaki Kaimai Mamaku Trust – Bay of Plenty
  • Food for Whio – Eastern Whio Link, Upper Waioeka Catchment Group, Mātāwai  – Gisborne
  • Te Wairoa Ecological Baseline Survey – Friends of Te Wairoa Catchment Incorporated – Auckland
  • eDNA sampling throughout the Pomahaka Catchment – Pomahaka Water Care Group – Otago
  • Baseline eDNA sampling post-Cyclone Gabrielle – Te Mana o te Wai kei waenganui ngā awa ō te Ngaruroro i te Tūtaekurī Between the Two Rivers Community Catchment Collective (B2R) – Hawke’s Bay
  • Pāuatahanui Stream Catchment – Pāuatahanui Freshwater Catchment Community – Kāpiti
  • Wairepo Moemoeaa – Te Wairua o Te Moananui – Ocean Spirit – Northland
  • Testing our Freshwater – Ahuriri Tributaries Catchment Group – Hawke’s Bay
  • Waionehu Catchment Group – Northland
  • From the Mountains to the Sea / mai i nga maunga ki te moana – Friends of the Otahū Catchment Area Inc – Waikato
  • Tarawera Impact Collective – Te Arawa Lakes Trust – Bay of Plenty
  • Avon Valley Restoration Project – Avon Valley Catchment Group – Marlborough
  • The Lumsden Streams Health Project – Southland
  • Waingongoro Awa Restoration Project – Waingongoro Catchment and Waimarama Marae – Hawke’s Bay
  • Waiōtahe Water Care extension program – Waiōtahe Water Care Inc – Bay of Plenty
  • Mai te Maunga ki te Moana – Okahu Hapū, Ngāruahine Iwi- Taranaki

Find out more about Wai Tuwhera o te Taiao

What is eDNA?

Wilderlab interactive map