The hapū are working to restore native habitats on their whenua. Particularly an area of hill country at Manawatawa on the Hokianga Harbour. The project is about much more than replanting 27ha of former pine forest.
As well as increasing biodiversity, revegetating the hillside will reduce sediment run-off into the harbour, improving water quality and enhancing the fishery. It’s one part of a collaborative effort by the hapu and the wider Te Rarawa Iwi to focus on kaitiakitanga and practical projects to improve the health of the Hokianga Harbour.
There are significant benefits to the community as well. The hapū project design encompasses matauranga Māori and includes planting and use of rongoā species (those used in the traditional healing system of Māori). It will improve water quality of the community water supply.
It also provides part-time work for unemployed members of the community and has been incorporated into a rangatahi programme. This has been running for more than ten years and aims to empower young people with knowledge about environmental issues and equip them to be future leaders.
The project started in 2021 with initial weed clearing of 7ha and planting of more than 5,000 native trees. This year, as well as maintaining the original area, they’ve completed planting to complement emergent regeneration of the native flora on another 13ha, and are controlling weed competition to support the natural processes of restoration.
The youth, volunteers and community members are finding new harmony with this piece of nature. It’s making a difference for the land, the harbour and the people.