Plan to clear polluted Rotorua stream gains traction

Sam Kelway
Source: 1News

An ambitious plan to clean up a culturally significant stream is gaining traction in Rotorua.

The stream, which flows through the Whakarewarewa Living Māori Village, has been made off-limits for tamariki, commonly known as the Penny Divers, two years ago.

The children who live in the village would dive for money which was offered as koha from tourists visiting the unique village.

But health concerns arose in 2018 as whānau noticed the children's skin showing a blotchy discolouration.

Whakarewarewa Charitable Trust chairman James Warbrick says the Puarenga Stream is "the lungs of our lake, and as we're looking at it now, it's dead".

"We want to do something about it".

There are suspicions about what is causing the pollution, but the iwi isn't looking to lay blame.

Instead it's looking to restore the health of the stream with help from the MacDiarmid Institute.

The collaboration combines multiple knowledge systems to bring together mātauranga Māori, putaiao Māori and science.

MacDiarmid Institute co-director Nicola Gaston said mātauranga Māori is a "valuable knowledge source that we want to preserve within the research world".

"An abundance of knowledge has been contributed to this project by local whānau and iwi," she said.

“We are glad to assist this Māori-led initiative, and excited to follow the people of this land’s lead.”

Gaston says they'll look to use natural materials like flax.

"The goal is really for our scientists to be designing materials that can actually remove some of the pollutants from the water way over time."

It's hoped that tamariki can swim and dive for money again when tourists return.