Programme Details

The Whakaora Te Waihora programme is an extensive ecological and cultural restoration programme for Te Waihora / Lake Ellesmere that is led by Ngāi Tahu and Environment Canterbury.

It is expected that it will take at least two generations, or around 35 years, to restore and rejuvenate the mauri and ecosystem health of Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere.  This is in addition to more than 10 years of restoration work already undertaken by Papatipu Rūnanga, landowners, agencies and others around the lake.  The clean-up of the lake will only work if we all pitch in.

Annual Summary Report 2017/18

In 2017/2018 the Whakaora Te Waihora programme successfully delivered its annual work plan within budget.  This achievement is of significance as it was also the first year of the Whakaora Te Ahuriri project, where all deliverables were also achieved.  Read the key achievements in the Annual Summary Report.

Programme phases in detail

Phase One of the programme (running from 2012-2017) has focused on 5 key aims:

  1. Accelerate the restoration of ecosystem health of an internationally significant wetland, notable for its wildlife and native vegetation values.
  2. Begin the process of restoring and enhancing specific cultural sites and mahinga kai.
  3. Protection and restoration of lake margin wetland habitats, existing indigenous native vegetation and wildlife, and restoration of specific lowland tributary streams and riparian habitats.
  4. Improve lake and catchment management practices by focussing on sustainable land use and drainage practices within the catchment.
  5. Establish a robust monitoring and investigations programme that ensures the lake response to management is understood and management activities are adapted accordingly.

View the full Summary and map of the Achievements of Phase One of Whakaora Te Waihora.

Key achievements of Phase One have included:

  • Over 200,000 plants planted;
  • Re-establishing a wetland (Te Repo Orariki);
  • Weed and willow control at priority sites. Due to combined efforts in recent years, willows have largely been controlled on the eastern shore of the lake;
  • Achieved real-time monitoring of lake water quality;
  • Completed scientific investigations, including for a trial establishment of macrophytes that will be planted behind wave barriers, fish recruitment/fisheries management, the lake opening, mahinga kai bio-health, assessment of nutrient attenuation, and nutrient cycling;
  • Supporting Lincoln University on the development and implementation of an integrated monitoring plan;
  • Supporting Te Ara Kākāriki to deliver the Kids Discovery Plant-out, reaching 11 schools and 1,000 students;
  • Re-battered 21.3 km of waterways to reduce sediment;
  • Implemented restoration actions for the Huritini/Halswell River, Waikekewai Stream, Hart’s Creek, and the Kaituna River;
  • Held five Farm Environmental Plan (FEP) workshops, completed 53 FEPs, and held two field-days;
  • Implementing a Strategic Communications Plan, with regular stories on the programme’s website (, and over 1,100 followers of the programme’s Twitter account (@tewaihora); and,
  • Established a robust programme management structure for reporting, financial management, contract management, Health and Safety, and risk management.

The work that has being undertaken through Phase One has been crucial to the long-term success of the programme.

As well as being an internationally significant wetland, Te Waihora has outstanding significance for Ngāi Tahu as a tribal taonga, representing a major mahinga kai and an important source of mana.  In Ngāi Tahu history, it was Rākaihautū and his son Rokohuia who first landed the Uruao waka on the South Island/Te Waipounamu, many centuries ago.

Rākaihautū travelled down the island beating the land with his kō and leaving the inland lakes.  The original name for the lake is Te Kete Ika o Rākaihautū/The Fish Basket of Rākaihautū, in reference to the lake being a considerable tribal resource.

Te Waihora is a mahinga kai of great importance to Ngāi Tahu and participation in food and resource gathering on the lake is as important now as it was for early Māori.  A commitment to customary use implies sustainable use and the need to manage, protect and restore species, habitats and ecosystems.  Ngāi Tahu now focuses its relationship on the protection and enhancement of threatened species to the point where they can once again be used by Ngāi Tahu whānau.

The vision for Whakaora Te Waihora is “To restore and rejuvenate the mauri and ecosystem of Te Waihora and its catchment”.  You can read the Whakaora Te Waihora Programme Strategic Summary by following this link.


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