Kaitiaki, Kaimahi me te Kāpata Kai – Iwi solution seeking in wastewater treatment.


The water quality of the Rotorua lakes (Rotorua, New Zealand) has seen significant deterioration over several decades for a variety of reasons, including leaching of nutrients through failed or overloaded disposal fields from lakeside communities. This paper describes the cultural impact and technical assessment to reticulate the lakeside communities of Lake Rotomā and Lake Rotoiti.

These regions have a rich history of Iwi (tribal) settlement, and the majority of land within these catchments are Maori owned and leased. Iwi have had an uninterrupted link with ancestral lands, wāhi tapu (sacred areas) and sites of cultural and spiritual significance in this area. The state of the lakes and water ways and the ability to adhere to kaitiakitanga (guardianship) practices and tīkanga (cultural traditions) regarding the treatment and disposal of water and wastewater on these ancestral lands correlate directly to the mana and rangatiratanga (sovereignty) of the Iwi of Ngāti Pikiao that reside within.

This paper considers decision making around a suitable reticulation method that reduces the environmental impact on the lakes, aligns with Iwi cultural values and practices and ensures financial viability for current and future generations. It describes solutions: STEP (Septic Tank Effluent Pumping) system for Lake Rotomā and Vermifiltration systems (Bio pods) for Lake Rotoiti. The result of such decision-making has the potential for increased engagement of local Iwi and strengthening of local Iwi-council relationships.