Work with nature: Tania’s story

Community Wellbeing


Healthy Ecosystems

This week is WAI Wānaka’s galaxiids week. We hope to raise awareness of the lesser known native fish by giving them a voice. Looking after these at-risk species takes a collective effort across time and space. Read more about the mahi many people are involved in around Aotearoa and what inspired them.

Tania Kinita is a kaitiaki, a guardian, of wai.

As a Tangata Whenua of Aotearoa, Tania was brought up taking care of the waterways. Tania’s whakapapa goes back to Ngāti Tahu/Ngāti Whaoa from Orakei Korako, between Taupo and Rotorua. Her Tupuna is Matua Tahu who descends from Ngātoro-i-rangi. Tahu then took the Takitimu Waka to Te Waka o Maui, also known as South Island and went on to lead Ngāi Tahu (known as Kāi Tahu) in the South Island.

One of the major rivers in Te Waka o Maui is Mataura, who is an ancestor of Ngatoro-i-rangi. Tania feels things have come full circle, ‘as she’s been brought back to the place of her ancestors.’

Work with nature rather than against it.

Tania first entered the conservation workforce through the Bay Alliance Conservation Cadetship based in Mount Maunganui, Tauranga. This programme educated Tania and taught her much about the many aspects of conservation (Taiao) in Aotearoa. Through this programme, Tania has gone on to play a role in the Fish Passage space in Southland with a focus on connecting waterways so our migratory species can access habitat and out to the Moana to complete their life cycle. This is done by assessing culverts throughout Southland and uploading the data to be put through an algorithm to show if it is a barrier. If it is a barrier then a suggested fix is sent and then I install materials, with tools and fixings and remediate the barrier to ensure the migratory aquatic species have complex water flow and resting pools within the culvert.

“as kaitiaki-wai, i’m doing what i’ve been assigned to do.”

Tania didn’t choose this line of work initially; she’s actually a qualified youth worker. However, through engagement and making connections in the industry, Tania quickly realised how her strong communication and passion for the environment could benefit this workforce. 

When it comes to conservation, Tania feels there can never be enough hands on deck. She says the more people are “aware and proactive, the better for our species.”

Tania encourages people to educate themselves and find their passion for our land. Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) for instance is a forum for tangata whenua to join a group that maps programmes of the original wetlands of Aotearoa. Another suggestion is to study ecology, hydrology, marine biology, or conservation in tertiary education. However as Tania proves, you can still play a large role in this industry through passion and commitment. Tania also explained how important volunteering is; acts such as getting in touch with the local councils about volunteering opportunities allow you to get involved and play your part when you have time. 

Tangata whenua have always had an understanding of, and obligation to, the land and oceans. It is this gratitude, ingrained in their ethos, that make them such important voices in the conservation realm. Tania had laid life out in her mind, and was content as a youth worker. But fate had other plans, and now she’s helping preserve parts of nature that pre-date human arrival. 

Tania’s story is, truly, a tale of guidance from the past.

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