Kia Mouriora te Kaiwharawhara Sanctuary to Sea


Kia Mouriora te Kaiwharawhara Sanctuary to Sea is a collaborative whole-of-catchment restoration initiative with a 100-year vision that the mouri/lifeforce of the Kaiwharawhara is healed. Through working in partnership with mana whenua, organisations and communities throughout the whaitua/catchment, we aim to enhance Wellington’s natural capital from ‘Sanctuary to Sea’.


Koia te mouri tū, te mouri tapu, te mouri ora o te Kaiwharawhara, tātou e tau nei, hui e, taiki e!



Here, the life essence stands, the sacred essence of life, of life's vitality within the Kaiwharawhara, amongst all of us here, gathered, united!

What we do

Our collective efforts focus on Te Awa – The Stream, Te Ngahere -The Forest, Ngā Tāngata – The People. We are piloting programmes that tackle the toughest issues facing urban catchments as an exemplar for others in Aotearoa New Zealand.


Who we work with

Alongside mana whenua, Taranaki Whānui Te Ūpoko o Te Ika, we work with strategic partners, community groups, academic researchers and businesses. We continue to build relationships with those connected to the catchment and create opportunities for reconnection.


How to get involved

There are a number of ways to be part of this initiative, through Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne or by supporting the work of others in the Kaiwharawhara catchment. Learn how you can get involved as a community member, researcher or business.


What we do

The Kaiwharawhara whaitua/catchment is unique in Wellington City: it is the largest stream system and only catchment with an open estuary on the Wellington harbour. It has many special values – a rich cultural history, numerous species of native fish, and Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne at the headwaters, providing a source of dispersal for unique New Zealand wildlife.

The project came about in 2017 when Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne began looking beyond the predator exclusion fence with our mana whenua partners to explore what we could do to enhance the benefits for biodiversity and the people of our region. Work on freshwater within the sanctuary, and the connection to the wider landscape through the ika/fish and manu/birds that leave and enter, seemed a natural place to start. This catchment-based approach was a springboard from the efforts of a previous initiative, Project Kaiwharawhara, which had been active many years before.

For more information about this unique catchment and kaupapa, take a look at:

Examples of key initiatives and high impact work include:

  • - Reintroduction of threatened taonga species to the upper waterbodies of the catchment (Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne) through mana whenua partnerships; one example is the translocation of endangered kākahi/freshwater mussel to Roto Māhanga, which brought together te ao Māori alongside western science.
  • - The removal of introduced perch from Roto Kawau in Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne; this project removed a major predator of native freshwater species and will over time improve water quality of the catchment.
  • - Supporting mana whenua in their aspirations for the catchment partners; e.g. the establishment of Te Tini o Hākuturi (cultural monitoring kaitiaki group); the ambitious project to achieve legal personhood for the Kaiwharawhara.
  • - Our ‘Every Business Restoring Nature’ project, which grew from recognizing the connection and impact that our business community has in the catchment. This project is in its pilot stage and presents an exciting opportunity to collaborate with businesses to create innovative nature positive actions that restore the catchment and support them to share this with their sectors on a national scale.


Who we work with 

The project is led by Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne, in partnership with mana whenua Taranaki Whānui Te Ūpoko o Te Ika, and has strategic leadership from CentrePort, Wellington City Council, Department of Conservation, Greater Wellington Regional Council, Morphum Environmental Ltd, GHD and Wellington Water. The wider Kaiwharawhara community are key stakeholders and drivers of our collective effort, and researchers support our work. We consider this whole-community approach as the only option for reversing the loss of biodiversity in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Today, Kia Mouriora te Kaiwharawhara Sanctuary to Sea exists thanks to the work of many passionate community members who have been focused on the restoration of the catchment for decades. This project exemplifies where we are heading as an organisation. Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne has a 500-year vision of restoration—sustainability is at our heart. Our theory of change for a better environmental future is to push the boundaries, learn from what we do, share our knowledge, and inspire action.

Read more about some key voices of the Kaiwharawhara below. 


How to get involved 

Our vision to restore the mouri/vitality to the Kaiwharawhara catchment can only be achieved if we work together.


Community Members

Are you a community member interested in the restoration of the Kaiwharawhara?


Find out more.

Kaiwharawhara Businesses

Our new collaborative project aims to support every business to restore the mouri of the Kaiwharawhara.


Find out more.


If you’re undertaking any research or data gathering activities in the catchment or linked to the kaupapa, we’d love to hear from you.


Find out more.

Restoration Experts

If you have a set of skills that you think could contribute towards our 100 year plan we’d love to hear from you.


Find out more.