Whanau members can remember Te Karamu as an abundant mahinga kai and a place for recreational pastimes, swimming, rafting and even waka ama. It used to flow freely from its source as it wound through much of Heretaunga.
For a few decades now the Te Karamu stream has been so modified and mistreated it is a sluggish, weed-infested shadow of its former self. People who live along its banks and community groups have put time and effort into beautifying parts of it, planting native plants, bushes and trees but it would be hard to find anyone that would dip their toes into it these days.
With the advent of increased industry, inadequate discharge monitoring and a lack of will by local and regional government, Te Karamu waimāori has become so degraded it is known as the ‘drain’ of Heretaunga. Natural springs compete to hold their own against man-made water courses or drains as they find their way to Te karamu.
In 2012 a state of the takiwa cultural health monitoring report Ka Ora Te Wai, Ka Ora Te Hapū was done by mana whenua environmental kaimahi to highlight those issues for Te karamu and put forward recommendations for restoration of the stream. However not much action has been done by local government to help restore the awa since except further reports re-litigating the state of Te Karamu.
Recently Te Rūnanganui o Heretaunga, the Heretaunga marae collective for Heretaunga environmental and marae hapū development under the auspices of Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga, adopted a Waimāori values statement that forms the foundation for investigating what governance/ co-governance of Te Karamu and other waimāori would look like for mana whenua. Based on the traditional kawa laid out over generations by their tipuna, the document is also an affirmation of the tikanga and mātauranga Māori already put forth by the Ka Ora Te Wai report.
Time is of the essence for protection and restoration of Te Karamu as local government and consultants have drafted an east-side master plan that proposes an industrial corridor from Tomoana Park to Whakatu.