The CHI is a credible measure of stream health. It gives reliable results across all stream sizes and stream types, from headwater streams to the lower reaches of the main stream. In cultural terms, this means that you can choose sites from any catchment and any part of a catchment consistent with the ki uta ki tai (mountains to the sea) philosophy.
You can choose:
- the smallest or headwater streams
- medium–sized streams in the middle reaches which may be tributaries or mainstream
- larger streams in the lower reaches which may be major tributaries or mainstream.
The number of sites selected and the number of assessments will depend on the purpose of the assessment.
The following examples are a guide:
Assessing the cultural health of streams within a whole catchment
For the Taieri, Hakatere and Tukituki River CHI studies, 30 sites were selected so as to include traditional sites, small, medium and large stream sites and sites in a range of land uses. For the smaller Kakaunui River 18 stream sites were assessed. Repeat assessments at one to two yearly intervals should be adequate to monitor changes in cultural stream health.
Evaluating the cultural health of selected traditional sites
The number of traditional sites and how important each is to tangata whenua will determine how many stream sites to include in a study. These may only need to be assessed once if the purpose is to establish the cultural health of traditional sites.
Treating a degraded traditional site and monitoring improvements
If assessments reveal degraded sites, tangata whenua might decide to undertake improvements or approach the regional council to help improve the quality of chosen traditional sites. Sites that have been treated will need to be monitored at regular intervals to find out whether improvements are taking place. How often follow up monitoring needs to be carried out can be based on how soon improvements are expected. To be sure that the treatment is causing improvements rather than some other feature, sites upstream and downstream will also need to be monitored.
Once the sites have been selected and agreed, the project coordinator should visit each site to confirm:
- the exact map reference (using a GPS location device)
- the site is still part of the river system and has not been diverted, drained or destroyed
- the site is accessible for the field team members. A vital aspect of this step is ensuring the landowners are informed and comfortable with access.
During this initial visit, prepare a description of the site and take photos of the upstream and downstream views of the river from the site.
At this time it might be useful to think about how to introduce the site to the field team during their training and orientation before executing the study. You might like to consider:
- the location of a suitable vantage point for the best views
- the best approach (upstream, downstream, overland) remembering the different physical abilities of the team members. It is important that this approach is consistently taken throughout the study.
- that the way the site is approached and described may affect judgements made on the reporting form
- possible access problems (legal and physical) around the site.
Once every site has been visited and canvassed, a plan can be made for visiting all the sites. Think about vehicles; travel time; access (legal accessand physical access); equipment that will be needed; food and drink for the team; and other relevant logistics.
It is recommended that you consider health and safety issues. All team members need to be briefed on health and safety before fieldwork actually starts.