An environmental award for removing a dam across a South Taranaki river recognises a precedent-setting restoration, says the award winner.
Ngāruahine's governance entity Te Korowai o Ngāruahine Trust has won a group community award in this year's Taranaki Regional Council Environmental Awards, for the removal of the Glenn Road weir from the Kaūpokonui Stream.
The iwi wanted the weir cleared so threatened native fish species could migrate upstream for the first time in 120 years, and began the process in 2004.
But Heritage New Zealand initially opposed the move and instead spent a decade pushing through registration of the weir as a Category One Historic Place.
The original weir was built five kilometres from the coast in 1900 and was replaced in 1941, but in 2001 it was identified as a barrier to fish movement.
Te Korowai o Ngāruahine pouuruhi taiao (environment lead) Dion Luke said Bart Jansma began advocating for removal while still working at the regional council, then became an environmental policy advisor for the trust.
"I think eventually Bart just wore [Heritage NZ] down, pretty much.
"New technology came along which meant they could scan the dam itself, and record it, so that sort of changed their attitude and elevated the ecological values."
The award recognises significant improvements to native biodiversity in the Kaūpokonui Stream.
Luke said tuna (eels) and piharau (lamprey) could now access about 85 percent of the Kaūpokonui's waters and tributaries, compared with only about a quarter previously.
"There are still a few impediments to that fish passage but we'll work on that over time."
TRC said other species such as inanga (whitebait) and panoko (torrentfish) were found upstream after the weir was removed in February this year.
Luke said Ngāti Tū hapū were involved in the removal, and John Kahu and Junior Robinson played a big part in the campaign.
"The elevation of cultural and ecological values of the stream that's a big, important advancement for us. It sets a good precedent for other fish passage barriers around the region."
The council said Te Korowai lead the process in securing a resource consent, gaining funding, and liaising with councils and others including Ngāti Tū hapū, Department of Conservation, Heritage New Zealand, Fish and Game, landowners, and Fonterra.
Ngāti Rāhiri's Keith Holswich was also recognised in the council's awards, for outstanding contributions to the protection of culturally and environmentally significant sites within the Ngāti Rāhiri rohe.
Holswich has had a career of more than 50 years land surveying.
The council citation said he played a key role in ensuring details of more than 100 places significant to Ngāti Rāhiri are accurately recorded, to avoid damage or loss through inappropriate use or development.
"His work is of immense value to Te Atiawa and to the TRC and other agencies, and will allow his hapū and iwi, and the wider general public to learn more about the rich history of Taranaki land."
"Thanks to Keith's efforts, the TRC is making progress in compiling a region-wide list of sites significant to Māori, for use in resource management."
"This will ensure the cultural, environmental and historical values of these sites are protected for future generations."