26 JUNE 2019
Exploring the current and historic health of New Zealand’s most northern lakes
New Zealand’s most northern iwi, Ngāti Kuri, and researchers led by scientists from GNS Science and the Cawthron
Institute, will this week start scientifically sampling some of the country’s most remote lakes north of Kaitaia.
The sampling is part of a nationwide project called ‘Lakes380: Our lakes' health – past, present, future’ which aims to
determine the health, wellness, and history of 10 percent of New Zealand’s 3800 lakes.
Ngāti Kuri Trust Chairman Harry Burkhardt said: “The project will help Ngāti Kuri become more aware, and better placed
to implement the best systems that we can to protect our unique biodiversity, manage our biosecurity and most
importantly enhance our own relationship with our natural world and these precious taonga.”
Northland has more than 400 dune lakes. Dune lakes are some of the rarest and most threatened aquatic habitats in the
world. Working with Ngāti Kuri, the Lakes380 project team will take sediment cores and water samples from five lakes in
the sand dunes just south of Cape Reinga.
They will analyse the samples to determine the health of the lakes over the past 1000 years to understand why and how
their condition is changing. One of the target lakes – Lake Waitahora – is New Zealand’s most northern lake.
Project co-leader Dr Susie Wood of the Cawthron Institute said it was a real privilege to visit Lake Waitahora, which is
likely one of the world’s most pristine dune lakes.
“We know next to nothing scientifically about this lake and the animals and plants that live in it. We are excited to be
working with Ngāti Kuri on this mahi.
“This provides us with a unique opportunity to learn from their long association with these lakes and further enrich our
knowledge of these precious places.”
Dr Wood said the lakes have high cultural significance to Ngāti Kuri and were often important sites for mahinga kai
(traditional food gathering). Ngāti Kuri and the Lakes380 team will also sample Lake Te Ketekete, where more than 2500
people once lived in a lakeside settlement.
GNS Science Paleoecologist Dr Marcus Vandergoes, who co-leads the project, said Lakes380 will provide information to
assist Ngāti Kuri and the Northland Regional Council in developing protection and restoration programmes for the lakes.
“These lakes are home to a unique range of native plants and animals. Our project will use a range of new methods such
as environmental DNA and scanning techniques to measure the current and past biodiversity of these globally distinct
The Lakes380 team will spend three weeks working on lakes north of Kaitaia. During August they will sample a further 20
lakes on the Pouto Peninsula. Visit the project website: https://lakes380.com
Dune lakes only occur in a few places around the world and they are often sites where people like to live. The Northland
region has more healthy dune lakes than anywhere else on Earth.
About Cawthron Institute:
Cawthron Institute is New Zealand's largest independent science organisation, offering a broad spectrum of services to
help protect the environment and support sustainable development of primary industries. Based in the Nelson Tasman
region, Cawthron works with regional councils, government departments, major industries, private companies, and other
research organisations throughout New Zealand and around the world.
For more information go to www.cawthron.org.nz
About GNS Science:
GNS Science, Te Pū Ao, is New Zealand’s leading provider of Earth, geoscience and isotope research and consultancy
services. Its purpose is to understand natural Earth system processes and resources, and to translate these into
economic, environmental and social benefits.
For more information go to www.gns.cri.nz