The local community have strong connections to the river, as an integral part of life in Kakahi. The community relates the river to health and wellbeing, the upbringing of children, the amenity and beauty of the area, and to tourism. As such, residents of Kakahi feel strong guardianship of the rivers.
“We have the Tongariro Power scheme and they take the water and it used to be heavily monitored by **** who died, and I’ve never seen the river so low. I know we’ve got a drought but they usually put water in it.”
“There is a bylaw now. When they first took our water our rivers went right down and it was going to affect our trout fishing and everything like that. So a few of us took them to the high court. We had to go to Whanganui to the high court, our people. And we beat them. And they had to release a certain amount of water. And not go below that. And since then, once a few years ago, someone told me the water level was low. And I went and had a look and it was low. So I started ringing the different companies and within two hours we had the water back again. I told them they have to release a certain amount of water.”
“…. So they are monitored and our fishing came back to life again.”
The community raised other concerns related to flooding and the management of the river.
“The huge floods that hit, I got in touch with Horizons, and I got my Horizons bill and I thought ‘What the heck are we getting from Horizons in this area?’ So I rung up the head office and they said we’ll send a guy to have a look at it. And he came from Palmerston North and I spent two hours down the river with him and showed him all the land we’ve lost and I asked him, ‘What are you doing for our area? You’re supposed to be managing our river, and the riverbanks, and our domain and hundreds of trees have gone, there’s digging into the banks!’ They should have monitored this. I said, ‘What are you spending your money on?’ And he said, ‘Public transport.’ And I said, ‘Where’s all the buses in Kakahi?’”
“I think Owhango has got one of New Zealand’s best kept secrets. The walkway. It’s beautiful. It’s maintained by the community with trapping and so forth. It’s a really good example of a whole community looking after what they’ve got. But there is a slip on that, and it’s been closed for too long – I think it’s a horizon issue. It should have been fixed. Little things like that are annoying in a small area where you don’t have much.”
The challenges in working with District Council were expressed by the members of the group with respect to balancing the use of the natural environment by tourists and locals.
“From the community group’s point of view, the frustration is with Council, we write numerous letters and you get replies and it’s frustrating when you just can’t do a damn thing. We want to care for this beautiful environment we have here and a lot of people put in a lot of effort to keep it looking beautiful. And everyone does their bit, quite a few people. And we love it and respect it and want a bit of reciprocation from someone in that organisation, to know they care as well.”
“If they can’t spray the blackberries, just tell us. But we pay rates too. We’ve got this amazing river and beautiful cutting, with Kakahi Glow-worms on the world stage. But do you think we can get a .. toilet there?”
In similar a fashion to other communities, and although it is some distance from Tongariro National Park, residents of Kakahi expressed concern regarding management of tourists in the Park.
“I think the Tongariro Crossing is a major concern for a lot of people in terms of overcrowding but I think they are doing things and opening others walks that spread that load. But I think that’s an issue that is being managed.”
Locals perceived the key environmental risks or civil defence emergencies as being volcanic eruption. Earthquakes were also considered a potential risk. The group thought that people in Kakahi were ‘probably not’ prepared for a civil defence emergency.
“We’d probably be stuck here because the roads into Kakahi would probably slip a bit.”
“We have a regulation that everyone on the water system has to have a tank so they have a supply (of water).