Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

Our communities

Logging huts amongst bush west of Tihoi

Logging huts amongst bush west of Tihoi

In addition to engaging with community and iwi stakeholders about our research, we endeavour to support community processes and to raise awareness of local environmental issues. Staff often participate in a wide range of initiatives (e.g. presentations to schools and interest groups, mentoring students, judging at school science fairs) that are generally outside contracted research outputs. Some staff also volunteer to work in civil defence, search and rescue, and fire brigades. Many of our Lincoln staff also helped in communities affected by the Canterbury earthquakes. Community activities usually involve additional personal time and commitment, hence are significantly under–reported.

Some of our online resources developed primarily for end-user stakeholders in central and local government are also of use and interest to community groups and students interested in the environment.

Social Media

We use Facebook and Twitter to draw attention to interesting research, and we regularly post informative or instructive video clips on our YouTube channel. The number of followers is steadily gaining momentum, with many stakeholder and community conservation groups ‘liking’ and ‘following’ us. The number of followers of Landcare Research on Twitter exceeds 1500.

National Flax Collection

Weaving plants and information

Landcare Research is kaitiaki (guardian) of a collection of traditional weaving varieties of harakeke (New Zealand flax, Phormium spp.) donated by Rene Orchiston of Gisborne. The 50 harakeke were selected long ago from natural stands and cultivated by Māori weavers for their special leaf and muka (fibre) properties. There are varieties especially suited to making kete (baskets), whāriki (mats), piupiu (skirt) and cloaks.

Divisions of the harakeke are distributed on request to marae, schools, weavers, and community groups wishing to establish a weaving resource. There is extensive information for communities on our ethnobotany web pages, and the new Māori & Polynesian Textile Plants Facebook pages rapidly gained followers and ‘likes’. These web pages have additional information on the biology, ecology, distribution, and threats to and propagation of other weaving plants. The pages are particularly aimed at those learning traditional plaiting and weaving. The intention is that a deeper understanding of the plants’ biology and information on how to grow them will assist weavers and communities in their efforts to conserve these important resources.

In 2012/13, we supported the Wahakura Project at Christchurch Women’s Prison. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and accidental suffocation affects a disproportionate number of Maori and Polynesian babies. In a research project to foster safe bed-sharing practices, Dr David Tipene-Leach promoted the concept of the wahakura, the traditional Māori baby bassinet used for infants up to 6 months old. Ngai Tahu weaver Daphne O’Connell and a colleague initiated a project at Christchurch Women’s Prison, where the women are being taught basic weaving skills over a period of 8 weeks. At the end of the course wove a wahakura. The large amounts of harakeke leaves each week were harvested from the National New Zealand Flax Collection by a group of parent community service workers who then delivered them to the women's prison. Katarina Tawiri, curator of the flax collection, supervised and helped with the harvesting. “It was very much a win-win arrangement - it was great to support such a positive programme, and at the same time our Flax Collection got a good prune and tidy up!

This year, Te Wānanga o Aotearoa weaving tutors and students visited the Flax Collection throughout the year to harvest leaves for their projects. Katarina Tawiri, who manages the collection and who is also a skilled weaver, advised them on what cultivars would be best suited for their projects which included making kete whakairo, kete muka, wall hangings and pīkau (backpacks).

We have encouraged a greater degree of involvement of local weavers in both harvesting and pruning harakeke in the National Collection, to both support weaving wānanga and to get extra assistance with the increased maintenance load following a mast flowering year.

A production crew from Māori Television visited Lincoln to film the weaving varieties that are valued for cloak-making and to talk about other community and research uses of the collection. This was screened as part of Project Mātauranga's first episode.

Weaving plants

While harakeke (New Zealand flax) is the most widely used native plant in both traditional and contemporary weaving, several other species are also used for their distinctive qualities. We have produced a series of web pages covering the biology, distribution and propagation of plants used in raranga (plaiting) and whatu (weaving). We hope that a deeper understanding of the plants’ biology and information on how to grow them will assist weavers and communities in their efforts to conserve these important resources.

Freshwater management

Regional councils are now required under the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management to set limits for water quality, environmental flows and levels in the catchments of their region. Landcare Research has supported decision-making on these limits in a variety of ways, including recognition for cultural values and a series of policy briefs that cover a variety of issues such as setting up collaborative processes freshwater management.

The decline in water quality and quantity, and its state of mauri, is a significant issue for Māori. The government’s proposed RMA freshwater reforms set out a new approach to managing fresh water nationwide, including the role of iwi in planning and decision-making. We developed a methodological framework, centred on core Māori values and principles, to provide a robust process for increasing iwi/ hapū participation in freshwater management. The framework’s effectiveness has been demonstrated in the Kaipara Harbour catchment (with Te Uri o Hau), and in the Manawatu River catchment (with Rangitāne o Manawatū). Continuing work with both iwi is evaluating the application of catchment-modelling approaches using tools such as GIS, CLUEs and SedNetNZ to identify critical source areas of freshwater contaminants (e.g. nitrogen, phosphorus, pathogens, sediment).

S-map supporting farm management

S-map is the digital soil map for New Zealand. This year, we extended S-map coverage to include 1.5 million hectares of lowlands in Otago and Southland, as well as new areas in Canterbury, the West Coast, Wellington, Manawatu, Hawke’s Bay, Waikato and Auckland regions. In the Otago and Southland regions alone over 2000 different soil types were added to S-map.

The focus of investment in S-map has been to increase coverage of land used for primary production to better support various policy initiatives, particularly those relating to land management and farm nutrient budgets to improve water quality. S-map Online allows users to explore interactive maps of soil properties and soil variability, and download soil factsheets that provide more detailed information for each soil type. These factsheets describe the typical average properties of that soil type, and contain the wide range of soil attributes needed for Farm Environment Plans and nutrient budget models such as OVERSEER®. Over the last year there has been a lot of development and investment to support the soil component of OVERSEER and in particular being able to synchronise OVERSEER and S-map. Now, downloadable S-map factsheets include dedicated OVERSEER information, making this step much easier and more accurate for farmers.

During the year, we also worked with regional councils, industry agencies, and individual farmers to demonstrate how S map can support farm-scale mapping, particularly how detailed field observations at farm-to-paddock scale can be linked to S map factsheets to provide cost-effective soil information.

Education & educational resources

Teacher fellowships

On our website we have a number of popular educational resources, aimed at teachers as well as students and interested public. We regularly host teachers on Royal Society of New Zealand Teacher Fellowships; this year we hosted two – one of whom worked with our greenhouse gas emissions researchers at Palmerston North, and the other worked with researchers in Alexandra on lizards.

What is this bug?

Our ‘bug’ identification pages, which provide a very simple key to common invertebrates, continue to be very popular with students, teachers and general public. The pages are bilingual with the facility to toggle back and forth between the English and Māori pages. These pages are useful resource material for kōhanga reo schools and anyone learning Māori.

Insects & spiders of New Zealand/Aoteraroa

This bi-lingual resource is especially for primary students of years 2-6 and their teachers. It provides information about the insects and spiders found in New Zealand/Aotearoa suitable for levels 2 and 3 of the Science curriculum.

Native plants of schools & marae

This is an online key to help students identify native plants commonly found in school grounds and marae. It covers 54 species of trees, shrubs, ferns, tufted plants, grasses and flaxes. Fact sheets include images, botanical descriptions, links to scientific papers and websites, and a section on similar or related species. Additionally, there is information on general Māori and medicinal uses for most of these native plants. The key was developed by Ellex Stewart who worked with is on a New Zealand Science, Mathematics, and Technology Teacher Fellowship (administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand).

Freshwater algae

This year, we published an online key to freshwater algae. Like freshwater invertebrates, certain groups tend to be associated with particular habitat types or water quality conditions. In severe cases algae may give way to filamentous bacteria commonly known as “sewage fungus” which would be worth reporting to regional council pollution hotlines. While a few algal groups can be toxic and should not be touched by people or animals, many algal groups are part of the normal stream “microflora” and their presence is simply an indication that a stream ecosystem is functioning normally. Some algae form prolific growths (or “blooms”) in specific conditions, and these conditions might be natural or man-made.

The user-friendly resource is designed to assist community groups to monitor freshwater algae.

Plant identification keys

We have developed a number of online plant identification keys to support biodiversity and biosecurity stakeholders and community groups. Online keys make our expertise and data in nationally-significant collections more widely available.

Poisonous plants

Two free handouts that cover ‘plants in New Zealand poisonous to children’ and ‘safety in pre-school centres: plants to avoid’ are free to download from our website.


BioBlitz is a 24–hour biodiversity assessment with a very large team of specialists searching an urban park. Landcare Research staff instigated BioBlitz in New Zealand in 2004, and was the principal organiser of the annual then biennial event. Staff from many different organisations participated, with schools and general public encouraged to visit the ‘base camp” and participate in a wide range of activities such as conducted walks – the nocturnal events are always especially popular. There are number of colourful posters, free to download from our website, about different aspects of biodiversity. These posters are intended for school and community groups.

The Auckland Museum’s annual one-day Explorama event h grew out of the BioBlitz held at the Museum in 2010. From 2015 on, the Auckland Museum will also take over as principal organiser of BioBlitz although our staff will continue to be involved.

Biocontrol of weeds

Biocontrol of weeds is an exciting topic for science education at both the primary and secondary levels. The educational pages on our website are designed for teachers as well as students, and include sections on include biocontrol information, weed information, games, lessons (including outlines of learning objectives and curriculum connections) and activities and videos.

Adélie penguins

This section of our web-based educational resources provided comprehensive information, guidelines, activities and assessment criteria for teachers of Level 3 - 4 students studying Antarctica.

Community Pollination Project

The Community Pollination Project uses research to investigate the associations between pollinators and plants, leading to a better ecological understanding of pollination that can be used in the management of crop, pasture and native plants and their pollinators. This project is aligned to the Oceania Pollinator Initiative.

The web pages include section on flower visitors, and information for teachers, students and the general public.

Fungal Forays

The Fungal Forays (a Fungal Network of New Zealand initiative) are annual field trips to various parts of New Zealand to search for and document fungal species. Our staff usually contribute to the organisation of each event. The trips are well attended by professional and amateur mycologists and members of the public, whose interests range from the scientific or culinary to photography. Special Foray sessions have been organised for local schools.

Naturally uncommon ecosystems

To date, 72 types of naturally uncommon ecosystems have been identified as occurring in New Zealand. These ecosystems typically arise due to unusual environmental conditions, are mostly small (<1 to 1000 ha) and non-forested, and often support unique biodiversity. Their rarity means they are poorly understood, often threatened, and not distinguished in national-scale land cover classifications.

These systems would have naturally occurred over a small area in the absence of human activity and have previously been termed historically rare, originally rare, or naturally rare. The term naturally uncommon is preferred as it equates with the New Zealand Threat Classification System developed for threatened species.

A comprehensive series of webpages provide information about each system, including a detailed definition of the ecosystem, photographs, summaries of notable flora, fauna and current threats, and links to key references and useful information resources. The resource is primarily intended to support policy makers and those tasked with conservation and resource management responsibilities. However the information is of major interest to students, communities and anyone with an interest in the New Zealand environment.

Ora – Save the Forest game

Ora is an interactive ecological adventure game in which players save New Zealand’s forests; it is also a scientific experiment using crowdsourcing. The online game incorporates scientific data and models of forest-pest-management interactions but represents a totally different way of making research results available for others to learn from. Gamers’ actions in tackling complex pest control problems feed back into research on control and management strategies. The first Ora user study in December 2013 engaged 52 players and generated a number of useful ideas and themes.

As part of the Ora – Save the Forest game being developed with the HIT Lab at Canterbury University, we released Possum Stomp as a mini game, a ”reward” within the larger science-based game. Possum Stomp was also released as an app for iPhone, iPad and Android devices as a teaser and Ora fundraiser.

Community trusts & networks

Central Otago Ecological Trust

Our Alexandra staff play a key role in the Central Otago Ecological Trust (COET), which is a community–led conservation project to reintroduce fauna that has been lost from the Alexandra basin (starting with Otago skinks), restore the native vegetation in a threatened dryland ecosystem, provide opportunities for Central Otago communities to be actively involved in conservation, educate people about the special values of dryland ecosystems, and to provide ecotourism opportunities for the wider general public. Being a small site in a relatively small town, our staff are very much part of the local community and regularly speak to interested groups and host student visits. Landcare research is a Trustee in COET, and one of our staff is the COET Chair.

In May 2010, COET the 2010 Regional Award for the Heritage and Environment category in the TrustPower Community Awards in recognition of its work in involving the community in restoring native lizard and plant populations in Central Otago. In September 2010, COET won the Inland Otago Conservation Award for their efforts to save Otago skinks from extinction. (These are annual awards organised by the Department of Conservation as part of Conservation week.)

In 2012 COET won the Supreme Award at the Central Otago District Community Awards.

Lincoln Envirotown

Lincoln Envirotown Trust is a charitable organisation dedicated to fostering community–owned processes for the environmental, social, and economic sustainability of Lincoln, an area that is growing rapidly. Landcare Research provided extensive support and resources for getting the Trust under way, and since then we have been an on–going partner with Selwyn District Council, Lincoln University, Waihora Ellesmere Trust, Environment Canterbury, local CRIs, local schools and businesses, and the community.

In 2009, Landcare Research won the Lincoln Envirotown Responsible Business Trophy. The Trophy is an Oamaru stone piece donated by Ngai Tahu Properties, and Lincoln University. Forty local businesses entered; with Landcare Research being one of two businesses that achieved Platinum status.

Sanctuaries of New Zealand

We support the Sanctuaries of New Zealand (SONZ) network, which in August 2013 was formed into an Incorporated Society (SONZI). SONZ (and now SONZI) aim is to share goals and approaches in the common interests of restoring and protecting areas of New Zealand’s biodiversity by:

  • Eradicating the full suite of pests (or achieve near-zero pest densities) from their chosen areas
  • Reintroducing missing species including many rare and endangered species
  • Involving local communities in restoration

Common approaches or issues for these projects are:

  • Use of pest-proof fences
  • Ongoing intensive management of introduced pests
  • Using geographically isolated areas such as near-shore islands or peninsulas
  • Managing a permanent and substantial risk of reinvasion by pests
  • What, when and how to translocate
  • Monitoring changes and reporting success
  • Economic and social sustainability
  • The contribution and potential of sanctuaries to help New Zealand reach its biodiversity goals, including the vision for a Pest-Free New Zealand

Landcare Research hosts and manages the SONZ website and plays a key role in organising and running the annual workshop.

Styx Living Laboratory Trust

Landcare Research is a Trustee in the Christchurch-based Styx Living Laboratory. One of our staff chairs the Trust and another staff member is the secretary.

The Styx River is one of several spring-fed river systems that originate and flow through the city of Christchurch. This catchment, located on the northern urban edge, is approximately 50 square kilometres. The Trust aims to protect the integrity of the ecosystem and use it as a living laboratory focusing on educational learning and research opportunities for students.

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