Tangaroa, God of the sea, rivers and lakes, blessed Project Parore on Sunday afternoon with a beautiful day at Pukekauri Farms on Lund Road.
Project Parore is an initiative of the Uretara Estuary Managers to start cleaning up the streams feeding into the Tauranga Harbour within the Katikati township.
Te Mania catchment was chosen as the first step in a long-term vision to restore native fish and wildlife in waterways and clean up the harbour by improving the health of the land.
"This is the start of our journey for clean rivers," said John Burke, co-owner of Pukekauri Farms. "We want to return our rivers to what they once were. Our end game is to get the health of the harbour to where it was."
Brother and farm co-owner Rick Burke agrees.
"It's a marathon, not a sprint. I've been planting trees and retiring land for more than 25 years to improve the water quality going into the Tauranga Harbour.
"Ultimately we all want clean water. And we all have to pull together to make it happen — farmers, orchardists, iwi, townsfolk — we all have to work together.
"This sub-catchment approach brings agricultural and community sectors together to improve our water quality."
"This is our starting point," said Peter Maddison, Chair of Katikati Taiao — an environmental organisation aimed at getting groups working together.
"We will be measuring algae, animals, fish, plants and what animals are living on them at 26 testing sites on the Te Mania."
Sunday's testing began with a 900-year-old karakia by Tiki Bluegum.
He talked about the well-being of the environment.
"Tangaroa can hear us. We are all part of the eco-system.
"Without life here we would not have life in our harbour. We all want the same thing — health in our harbour. Long may it be on-going."
The afternoon was then a flurry of activity. Tests were conducted, from measuring water flow, counting and listing birds, trees and ferns as well as testing water quality, to netting small invertebrates in the stream. Night site checks will be carried out on different animals which appear at night compared to during the day.
Peter and his helpers hope to complete checking of the 26 sites by the end of this week, weather permitting.
He dragged an old mate from Auckland to help with fish identification.
Paul Woodard arrived complete with an array of gear to catch any canny koura hoping to avoid the net.
Uretara Estuary Managers (UEM) group vision to restore native fish and wildlife in waterways and clean up the harbour by improving the health of the land was earlier given a $500,000 grant from government agencies.
The volunteerUEM group leading the clean-up says it is seeing a dramatic shift in support toward a catchment-wide clean-up of Katikati's waterways.
The Uretara sub-catchment includes Katikati to the top of the Kaimai Ranges. It is 4100ha in area and flows east to Tauranga Harbour.
The grant covers work in the catchment over the next five years including pest control, planting of stream banks and wetlands improving fish passage and monitoring improvements.