Sediment, jobs and mauri – Minister responds to questions about measuring progress on Kaipara cleanup

We found nothing new, in our daily check of the Beehive website.  But we can report the reply to questions that were raised in an announcement from Environment Minister David Parker (which we noted at the time) earlier this month.

The announcement was headed Kaipara Moana restoration takes next step.

In this, Parker announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding at Waihāua Marae between the Crown, local iwi and councils

“ …  to protect, restore and enhance the mauri of Kaipara Moana in Northland.”

In August 2019 the Kaipara was named as the first “exemplar” or “at-risk” catchment to receiving backing as part of the Government’s work alongside local communities and iwi to improve water quality.

In this year’s Budget, as part of the Jobs for Nature package, the Government committed $100 million towards the remediation of Kaipara Moana, New Zealand’s largest estuarine ecosystem, with a matching $100 million contribution from local councils and landowners. 

“The $200 million Kaipara Moana Remediation Programme will restore mauri to Kaipara Moana while at the same time creating local jobs and opportunities. Close to 100 jobs will be established in the first year alone,” David Parker said. 

The MOU is the catalyst to establish the Joint Committee between Kaipara Uri and the councils to govern the remediation programme.

“The programme is the first of its kind – a long term, catchment-wide remediation initiative involving iwi, central and local government, landowners and wider community working together to restore the 602,000 hectare catchment.” 

 The counting of jobs seems straightforward, for anyone wanting to gauge progress and see what taxpayers are getting for their  $100 million investment.


  1. how does the Minister define “mauri” for the purposes of this project?
  2. what measure(s)  or gauge(s) will be applied by scientists to record progress on the restoration of mauri?
  3. where or how can taxpayers monitor this progress?
  4. who will determine if and when mauri has been restored to Kaipara Moana?

We put our questions to the Minister via a press secretary and – as the days passed – wondered if they had been put into the too hard basket or whether Parker was busy doing ministerial stuff and campaigning for another term in office.

Yesterday he replied personally, rather than via the press secretary.

From a matauranga Maori perspective, natural resources are imbued with mauri, an intangible and intrinsic value.  For the purpose of this Programme, I refer to improving the mauri of the harbour through environmental remediation, which aims to reduce sedimentation into the harbour by half.

Due to the complexity of environmental systems, the effects of sediment reduction may not be immediately evident.  However, the analysis shows that addressing and improving land use practices throughout the catchment will have remedial impact in the receiving harbour.

Measures to monitor progress will be based on outputs and include: area of highly erodible land stabilised, kilometres of fencing, riparian planting (number of plants), number of Farm Environment Plans developed, implemented, audited and completed and the number of jobs created.

The Programme will produce annual reports, which will be publicly available on the Ministry for the Environment website.  Reports from annual independent financial audits will be published. A more frequent dashboard of progress will be available for more regular metric updates.

The final details on reporting through the funding agreement are expected to be finalised in November 2020.

The Kaipara Moana and its catchment are an important snapper nursery area for the west coast of the North Island.

Sediment is the main problem with up to 700,000 tonnes washed into the harbour each year (about seven times the amount before human settlement).  

Sediment – like jobs – can be measured.

We look forward to progress reports on this and other objectives.

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