What's On at Zealandia


“Kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua.”

“Kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua.”

I walk backwards into the future with my eyes fixed on my past.

Last year we did something we, and likely no one else in NZ had ever done before – a freshwater ika/fish translocation for restoration purposes. This project was full of learnings for us, all of which we have been able to put into practice this year as we carried out the second top up translocation of toitoi. The focus of the 2024 translocation was to help secure the newly establishing population in the sanctuary and to allow us to practice using a mātauranga Māori collection method called whakaweku. 

Led by our bicultural and kaitiaki rangers, this was a brand-new way of collecting ika for us at Zealandia, but one that has been used traditionally in Aotearoa for a very long time. Our kaitiaki ranger Tia (Te Aupōuri, Ngāpuhi, Waikato, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Pukenga) shares her experience of using whakaweku for the first time. 


Learning a language takes time, and the extensiveness of it can be overwhelming when only focusing on the end goal. I think that’s why it’s important to step back and appreciate the small wins as they join together to pave the path of your learning journey. 

This feeling is similar for resurrecting a culture across a country, but also as an individual. On top of learning the reo/language, there are endless pockets of knowledge and ways of living that have been lost and are waiting to be rediscovered and ignited, and many feelings that come along with this revival. 

This is why using whakaweku in our toitoi translocation has been a priority and a privilege. 

Whakaweku is a traditional fishing method made up using a bunch of rārahu/bracken fern fronds tied together to create a habitable area for ika/fish and kōura/freshwater crayfish living within awa/rivers and roto/lakes. The beauty of this method, especially when compared to western fishing methods, is that all the ika, the kōura and the invertebrates that are caught in the whakaweku choose to inhabit this space and can come and go freely until it is pulled out of the water. 

Whakaweku are also known as taruke and koere in other parts of Aotearoa. Tau kōura is another name for the structure that you may recognize, but this name is primarily used when catching kōura/freshwater crayfish. This method was most used by iwi further up north, Te Arawa and Ngati Tūwharetoa in the Rotorua and Taupō Lakes which is likely why this fishing method is new to many in the Wellington region. 

Being able to rediscover a pocket of knowledge, put it into action and then being able to share our discoveries with iwi in hopes they can use it for future monitoring or collection, has been an experience that has encouraged deeper understanding and personal growth in te ao Māori and I cannot put into words how special it is to be a part of. Of course, with this comes the acknowledgment of the feelings that come with this new understanding. The excitement, the mamae, the hope, the loss and everything in between. 

This method also reminds me how much there is to learn about species below the surface of the water and the relationships held within ecosystems that I tend not to think of. I read that kōura feed on the nehu, or pollen, of the fern, also indicated by this whakataukī speaking of why rārahu is used, “he kakara, he ngawari, kaore e whati (it was sweet scented, it was pliable and would not break or snap).”

Through trial and error, we’ve learnt so much about using whakaweku and discovered during trials in our lake, Roto Māhanga, that the toitoi population we translocated here last year has bred! Using this method in our toitoi translocation has influenced us to continue to discover ways of bringing mātauranga back into our conservation space and back into our way of living.


You can still donate to the toitoi translocation project, or sponsor the journey of a fish to Zealandia. 
Donate here


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