Fresh funding for nationwide eDNA waterways initiative

Tuesday 2 May 2023, 2:14PM

By Environmental Protection Authority


Sampling water for eDNA
Sampling water for eDNA Credit: Environmental Protection Authority

From Northland to Southland, communities will be wading into their waterways to test what native plant life and animal species are there, thanks to funding from the Environmental Protection Authority’s (EPA) Wai Tuwhera o te Taiao - Open Waters Aotearoa eDNA programme.

This round, 21 community groups received funding for environmental DNA (eDNA) kits and to have their samples tested at Wilderlab laboratory.

Environmental DNA, or eDNA, refers to the tiny traces of genetic material left behind as living things pass through water or soil.

The EPA’s General Manager Engagement, Paula Knaap, says: "Testing of samples taken from waterways around the country will show the plants and animals that are present. These results can then be added to an online map that anyone can access. This empowers communities to make decisions that help their local environment to thrive.

"Maōri, farm and urban communities, and school groups are among those who’ll be taking part. They all have a strong passion for improving the environment for future generations of New Zealanders."

One of the successful applications was for a project run by NZ Landcare Trust and Maungatautari to Pirongia Ecological Corridor society. They plan to use eDNA testing over the next five years to measure the impact of their efforts to improve the water quality in the highly degraded waterways in their area.

NZ Landcare Trust Project Coordinator Bexie Towle says: "We haven’t got much operational money, so support like getting the eDNA kits from the EPA is fantastic. The eDNA testing will give our project community a chance to discover what’s in our own backyards and hopefully inspire others to help us to protect it."

Earlier this year, the EPA secured an extra $150,000 in funding from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s  Unlocking Curious Minds programme.

The funding will help extend Wai Tuwhera o te Taiao and enable new groups and existing participants to further explore the benefits of eDNA testing through case studies.

The EPA is providing monthly webinars for participants to learn, share and engage with eDNA experts. These are recorded and posted on the EPA’s resources page.

Wai Tuwhera o te Taiao is supported by Wilderlab testing laboratory and co-leadership from the EPA’s statutory Māori advisory committee, Ngā Kaihautū Tikanga Taiao.

Half of the kits are going to kaitiaki - iwi, hapū, whānau and kura. Another round of funding, specifically for rural catchment groups, will be announced in the coming months.

Find out more about the community projects that received funding
Find out more about Wai Tuwhera o te Taiao