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  • Navigating our freshwater environment is an interactive storymap that explores the state of rivers, lakes and wetlands – in a novel and engaging way.

    The storymap considers what’s going on from the perspective of tuna (longfin eel) and examines the challenges they face throughout their lives as they travel ki uta ki tai (from the mountains to the sea).

    Tuna is both a taonga species and an indicator species – their presence, size and condition can provide an indication of the health of the environment and the life-supporting capacity of our wai (water).

    Rights: Crown Copyright

    Navigating our freshwater environment

    Explore challenges faced by tuna as they live out their life cycle in freshwater and ocean habitats. This storymap uses information from the environment report Our freshwater 2023.

    Photo of longfin tuna by Fraser Tebbutt, Auckland. Sourced from truestock.

    The storymap was created by the Ministry for the Environment as an interactive product that allows users to explore data and findings from the environmental report Our freshwater 2023. It features both challenges that humans have created for tuna migration and efforts to mitigate these challenges.

    Aotearoa New Zealand’s freshwater environment supports all aspects of our lives, and we share an intimate and innate connection with it. It is central to our wellbeing, supporting our economy, recreation and gathering food. For many Māori, the freshwater environment is central to tikanga Māori, mātauranga Māori and mahinga kai.

    Our freshwater 2023

    Some of the key science and te ao Māori concepts that underpin the storymap include:

    • ki uta ki tai (from the mountains to the sea) and the interconnectedness of freshwater systems
    • wai ora
    • habitat
    • life cycles
    • tuna heke (migration)
    • maramataka and the constellation Puna-kauariki
    • mahinga kai.

    This activity helps users navigate and deepen engagement with the health of the environment through the lens of the tuna. It includes questions to promote understanding of the key science and te ao Māori concepts and provides links to resources that can help to extend this learning. It also provides opportunities for students to use multiple science capabilities.

    In this activity, students use a browser-based storymap to follow the journey a tuna makes during its life cycle and learn about the challenges it faces. This journey reflects the state of the freshwater environment in Aotearoa.

    By the end of this activity, students should be able to:

    • progress through the Navigating our freshwater environment storymap
    • interact with the data used in Our freshwater 2023 via interactive maps
    • use media and text to explore the stages of the tuna life cycle
    • use media and text to consider the challenges tuna face at each stage of their life cycle
    • consider how these same challenges affect other living things – including humans
    • discuss how this information can be used to protect, restore or care for freshwater systems.

    Download the Word file (see link below).

    Nature of science

    Science communication can take different forms to suit different audiences. Our freshwater 2023, an environmental report produced by the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ, uses a conventional format – data and scientific literature – to communicate the state of freshwater in Aotearoa. Using a storymap to explore the state of freshwater from the perspective of a tuna communicates similar information in a novel, visual and interactive format.

    Related content and activity ideas

    The following resources support further learning of key science and te ao Māori concepts covered in Tuna navigating our freshwater environment. Several of the suggested resources are curations that contain links to articles, activities and media.

    Ki uta ki tai and freshwater interconnections with people and te taiao (nature):

    Tuna life cycle and migration

    Freshwater habitats

    Maramataka and tohu

    Mahinga kai

    Action taking to support freshwater systems

    The Ministry for the Environment produced the storymap Our climate, our biodiversity, our future to support the environmental report Our atmosphere and climate 2023. Use this activity to navigate and deepen engagement.

    Useful links

    Visit Stats NZ for more information on water quality indicators:

    Visit these sites for additional datasets:

    Maramataka expert Rereata Makiha discusses world views, tohu and resilience in this presentation to Te Wai Māori Freshwater Fisheries Conference 2019.


    This resource has been produced with the support of the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ. (c) Crown Copyright.

    Rights: © Crown Copyright

    Our freshwater 2023

    The Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ produce New Zealand’s Environmental Reporting Series.

    Our freshwater 2023 reports on the pressures our activities put on freshwater systems and how they impact many of the things we value.

      Published 12 April 2023 Referencing Hub articles
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