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Applying the CHI

Figure 1 sets out the steps required to successfully implement the CHI. Each of the steps is explained in the sections that follow.

Figure 1: Steps to implement the Cultural Health Index

Steps to implement the Cultural Health Index

There are seven steps required to implement the CHI:

  1. Tangata whenua shoose a stream and define the purpose of the study.
  2. Interviews undertaken and qualitative data collected and analysed.
  3. Sites to be assessed selected and confirmed by tangata whenua.
  4. Historical data compiled –this step runs simultaneously with steps 2 – 7).
  5. Field assessments undertaken by the team members.
  6. Data entry – electric fishing and/or netting is required in this step to identify the fish species present at the site.
  7. CHI scores calculated.


Based on previous experiences, the time necessary to complete a CHI study depends on the size of the catchment and the number of sites being assessed.

It takes one hour to assess each site in the field. Given travel between sites and other factors, 4–5 sites might be managed in a day. This requires a dedicated and well organised team. For a whole of catchment assessment where 30 sites may need to be visited, up to seven days might be dedicated to field assessments.

If the project is being carried out on a voluntary, time–permitting basis, the timeframe will be longer.

To collect the data in the shortest time and most efficient way we recommend that a coordinator is appointed to manage the project and coordinate all aspects of the work (see below).

Choosing a stream

Which streams, and which sites on those streams, the Cultural Health Index will be applied to will be determined by the purpose of assessing streams or a stream reach.

The CHI has been designed so that it can be reliably applied throughout a catchment on streams of different sizes and types (e.g. rain–fed, spring–fed, snow–fed, lowland, highland, braided etc). It is also a reliable measure for streams in catchments where land use varies from indigenous forest, planted forest, tussock, grazed pasture, scrub and bare ground.

This means that tangata whenua can apply the CHI in any stream they have chosen to study.

Tangata whenua will need to agree on which sites are to be assessed and those who may be representing tangata whenua will need the appropriate mandate. An early indication of who is interested in being involved will be useful for longer-term planning and specifically for setting up the project team.

Tangata whenua will need to identify:

  • values associated with the river
  • traditional sites along the river
  • traditional uses of the river
  • important qualities of the river.

The knowledge and experience of tangata whenua will be critical to the success of the CHI study.

Appointing a coordinator

Managing the logistics of a CHI study is critical to its success. A skilled coordinator will make all the difference to the outcomes. One area of the study that would particularly benefit from the attention of a single person is the data analysis phase. It is recommended that the task of calculating the CHI scores be given to a single person – the coordinator.

When considering who to appoint as coordinator, the following skills are worth seeking:

  • experience in conducting interviews
  • ability to establish and maintain relationships at the grass roots level
  • credibility with tangata whenua
  • project management expertise
  • experience and ability in analysing qualitative data.

The coordinator should be appointed by the tangata whenua. The coordinator’s role includes:

  • managing the interview process and conducting interviews
  • working with tangata whenua to bring the team together
  • organising the training of the team
  • organising the field work and all the associated logistics
  • analysing the data and calculating the CHI scores
  • being involved in any follow up work that results from CHI monitoring.

A coordinator and team having a break from monitoring in the field.