Water is fundamentally significant to tangata whenua, and it is critical that the health of waterways can be evaluated. The CHI enables tangata whenua to assess the overall health of freshwater streams and rivers and collect data that is specific to cultural values such as mauri, mahinga kai and kaitiakitanga.
The CHI provides information that can be crucial to tangata whenua. It can be used as the basis for discussions between tangata whenua and district and regional councils. These resource management agencies will receive an overall CHI score for each site – such as A–0/2.1/4.2 – which will give them an indication of the status of the site, its mahinga kai values and its cultural stream health. To appreciate the detail within the CHI scores and therefore the issues in greater detail, resource managers and tangata whenua need to work together.
Tangata whenua will have this score as well as all the data collected at the site, including an inventory of mahinga kai species. By analysing the individual scores for each of the factors that make up the index, tangata whenua will be able to diagnose issues, decide on priorities and devise remedial actions necessary to the restoration or enhancement of the cultural values of the site. The CHI will allow them to monitor changes and improvements over time.
The CHI can be used as a tool to address questions such as:
- How healthy are the streams and rivers in our rohe?
- How can we be more involved in the management of our river? Being able to monitor the health of the streams in an entire catchment – ki uta ki tai (mountains to the sea) using our methods is an important part of kaitiakitanga for us.
- How have our rivers, and the way we use them, changed over time?
- How can we create a baseline so that we can detect any future changes in our stream/s?
- How can we measure the changes that we’re seeing in our river? How can we talk about these changes with councils in a way that is meaningful for both of us?
- How can we make the council aware of sites that are most significant to us?
- What effects are different land uses having on our mahinga kai?
- How do activities approved under resource consents affect our river and our mahinga kai gathering areas?
- We need quantitative monitoring tools to support the goals we’ve included in our Iwi Management Plan.
- We know that our river is degraded. How can we work out what we can do, together with water managers, to restore and enhance the health of our river?
- How can we tell whether restoration efforts are successful?
Identifying the need for a Cultural Health Index study
The CHI is applied to a stream or specific stream sites for a particular purpose. Identifying the need for a CHI study and stating its purpose is the first step in the process.
Specific reasons for setting up a CHI study may include:
- to carry out an overall assessment of a stream or sites along a stream
- to carry out an assessment of existing issues within a stream that would identify problems and possible causes so that ways of managing them could be explored
- the need to evaluate the success of restoration efforts
- the desire to re–establish relationships with sites of significance
- to teach rangatahi about freshwater values and get people more involved with their local stream
- to identify priorities for inclusion in regional council resource management initiatives and ongoing monitoring programmes.