The NZ Diploma in Environmental Management is a new course being offered this year at EIT with the likely employment paths of students being environmental technicians, researchers and rangers.

One of the primary areas of interest for environmental practitioners is monitoring and assessing stream health.

With that in mind Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Inc's environment and natural resources unit senior analyst and aquatic ecologist Shade Smith teamed up with EIT tutor Chris Thorman to lead a field trip to the Waitio Stream, a spring-fed tributary to the Ngaruroro River in Ohiti to show students techniques for assessing stream health.

The field trip started with a karakia, acknowledging time, place and people, and no sooner had the demonstration started when a flock of tiwaiwaka (fantail) descended among the roopu to feed on insects the group had disturbed within the surrounding vegetation.

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Upon demonstrating a technique for sampling stream macroinvertebrates the students were soon up close and personal with the variety of larval insect species including mayflies and caddisflies that as adults emerge from the stream and are favoured prey of the tiwaiwaka.

Moving on to the subject of water quality, Smith spoke to students about how best to collect a sample for the various parameters of interest including temperature, electrical conductivity, pH, dissolved oxygen, nitrogen and phosphorus.

Fortuitously and completely unexpected, a technician from the Hawke's Bay Regional Council water quality and ecology team arrived onsite to undertake monthly monitoring and so was able to demonstrate to the students how the sampling was undertaken within a real working life context.

The field trip ended with a demonstration of electrofishing techniques which allow an assessment of the diversity of fish species present in the stream, an integral component to assessing overall stream health.

For one of the students, who was given the opportunity to assist with the electrofishing, his summation of the day gave all involved a special sense of satisfaction, declaring "that's what I want to do".

Ngaio Tiuka is Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated environment and natural resource director