Articulating the collective values of iwi and hapu, then finding a way to apply those to managing and restoring the lakes is a big ask - but Elva Conroy says the results are starting to speak for themselves.

Ms Conroy held the pen and supported engagement of this significant project which looked at creating a framework to ensure the cultural values of Te Arawa are reflected across all the work of the Te Arawa Lakes Trust and the Lakes progamme partners.

After a lengthy consultation period, including hui around various marae and an online survey for whanau who couldn't attend hui, Ms Conroy developed Te Tuapapa o ngawai o Te Arawa - Te Arawa Cultural Values Framework.

Now, after a settling in period, the framework has become the foundation to ensure Te Arawa lakes are managed and restored with a "cultural lens", alongside science and technology.


She said seeing it in action showed just how important the "incredible framework" was.

An important part of the framework is around building capacity and capability within iwi and hapu - a key message from the recent Kaitiaki wananga.

It is also being used to educate council staff in terms of relevance to their work, and develop matauranga-based cultural monitoring tools.

Ms Conroy said the project had been the perfect combination of her science and planning backgrounds.

Developing it was a significant project and Ms Conroy said it was now important the information which had been collected was put to good use.

"We needed to come up with the cultural values for the trust, but didn't know what those would look like.

"Following the significant work that has gone in to establishing that framework, the focus is now on bringing them to life."

It also aims to effect positive change - environmentally, socially, culturally and economically, as well as improve awareness and knowledge about the traditional relationship of Te Arawa with the lakes.

The framework provides an insight into what is important for Te Arawa and is now being used across all areas the trust works in.

From a personal perspective, working alongside the trust in such projects has also allowed Ms Conroy, of Tuhourangi and Tapuika descent, to reconnect with her Maori heritage.

"The work we do means I have been able to connect with my heritage," she said.

"It's particularly important to have that connection now that I have daughters myself."

Ms Conroy said one of the most important parts of her job was empowering iwi and hapu.

"It's about leading where necessary, but empowering wherever possible."