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Otaraua Hapū, based in Waitara, is ecosourcing as many plants as possible, meaning the seeds come from close to areas being planted.
Those seedings are being used in at least seven community and private restoration projects in their rohe, from walkways, river and stream edges, marae and carpark areas to business replanting contracts, and that’s just the beginning with a nursery being set up.
Hapū manager Donna Eriwata says gathering seeds, seedlings and cuttings of natives within the planting area involves their Taiao (nature) team walking reserves, bushlines, tributaries and searching for these plants, many of which are no longer common in plantings.
Rather than eco-source across the wider Taranaki region, the hapū is keeping the seed sourcing very localised, and if they can’t find certain plants in the immediate area they will search further out. Sourcing locally helps plants survive and grow well, along with maintaining local biodiversity.
“Our restoration approach is to start from the beginning to ecosource so they can be planted out. Here’s a Pūriri growing in our nursery – we picked it as one of our speciality plants. We have been blessed by being able to participate in a Kiwi release on our Maunga Taranaki and naming the Kiwi “Puriri”. It’s a symbol of how important the species is for us and for restoring nature,” she says.
The Taiao team of 12, including 8 of whom are employed through “Jobs for Nature” funding which allows them to work across restoration projects from design to implementation, using mātauranga Māori alongside western science.
“We don’t want to get the plants and just stick them in the ground. We’re integral to the design of an area and carry out a process which covers everything from planning and design, eco-sourcing, growing the plants, pest control, fencing, pathways, planting out, with a maintenance plan for the plants and land going forward.
“In our team we have what we call Pou (Team Leads) each one of them have a passion for their field. So, we have someone who is an expert in the plants and the nursery, someone on the ground prep and fencing, someone on predator control. They own and run it and bring in kaimahi on the projects,” says Donna.
Seedlings are currently being nursed in a disused property and a disused empty pool. However, plans are underway to have a bigger nursery set up by the end of the year. The group works with community groups such as Waitara Taiao, Enviroschools, local Waitara schools, Te Ara Taiao O Waitara from Sustainable Taranaki, local and region business groups and government agencies.
The aim is all about restoring the health and mauri of areas, including the Waitara River. The restoration efforts provide important corridors for birds, insects and plants and brings back all sorts of wildlife, which in turn also develops people and their skills along with their wellbeing.
“It’s so satisfying to see work from taking a paddock that’s been used by cattle by taking it back to a wetland and seeing insects and hearing the birdlife after planting.”