National | Ika

Ngāti Rangiwewehi warriors train to protect Kōaro

Ngāti Rangiwewehi is keeping up research on the native fish species, the Kōaro.

There has been a decline in its numbers over the years, which sparked research on how to help it survive.

Today children were invited to learn about the native fish and to prepare themselves with mātauranga to become guardians of the Kōaro in the future.

Harina Rupapera is leading the wānanga through the Te Arawa Taiohi Toa programme backed by Te Arawa Lakes Trust.

Rupapera says educating the next generation is key to the survival of the Kōaro.

“It’s about connecting to our environment, the spiritual realm, to gather knowledge for our future generations,” she said.

The group of parents, children, scientists and kaumatua met on Kaikaitāhuna land next to the Hamurana stream in Rotorua to track down the Kōaro.

10-year check

They aimed to research numbers compared with 10 years ago by a weir (a small metal dam that stops trout going upstream to eat Kōaro) and, if it is working, to teach the children about the ika and its whakapapa and importance to Te Arawa.

Rupapera gave the history: “On our tupuna Ihenga’s many travels he had his dog with him called Potakatawhiti. The dog spewed up and out of his mouth came the whitebait and the Koāro.”

Mariana Te Rangi of Te Arawa Lakes Trust has been researching the Kōaro for many years and is proud to have the children there to witness for themselves the sidestreams that runoff from the Hamurana are filled with fish life. They saw a trout, kōura, and the native species fish, the Kōaro, all in one day.

Te Rangi also wanted to emphasise that the numbers of Kōaro are depleting and something needs to be done about it.

Unliveable habitat

She explained to Te Ao Mārama, “It is a mixture of things and there are a lot of build-ups so you will see a lot of ‘slug and mug’. What that’s doing to our ika is not leaving a good home for them and that habitat is becoming unliveable. What we do know is, it is declining. It is nowhere near what it was in 2014.

“And here we are, I am looking at one Koaro we caught within the trap. It is a good indicator to say we still have our taonga species within our wai. We just have to look after it a bit better.”

Rangiwewehi kaumātua Henare Mohi agreed with Mariana and is confident by holding this wānanga there will be warriors of tomorrow to continue to create change for the survival of their ika.

“They are our leaders of tomorrow, and the work these ladies are doing for our children is beautiful,” said Mohi.

Asked if the Kōaro was a delicacy in his younger days he nodded ‘yes’ - along with the kōura, īnanga and kākahi.

The group of Te Arawa Taiohi Toa will present their research to the Rotorua Lakes Council, hapū, and marae hoping to seek more support for the future and to encourage more ‘warriors’ to protect the Kōaro.