Papahikahawai Island landowners and tangata whenua joined forces yesterday with Bay of Plenty Regional Council staff, and volunteers from the Maketu Fire Brigade, Maketu School and Maketu Surf Lifesaving Club, to plant 3400 native plants on Papahikahawai Island in Ongatoro/Maketu Estuary.
It was the first of many planting days to come. Representatives of the Papahikahawai No. 1 and 2 Trust held a ceremony last Friday 10 June to karakia and mark the start of a 25 year project to retire the island from grazing, and restore it as a natural haven for wildlife and local people to enjoy.
“Our tupuna (ancestors) once valued this area for growing flax and collecting kaimoana (seafood). We want to play our part in restoring the mauri of the Maketu Estuary. Removing stock from Papahikahawai will reduce erosion and nutrient run-off into the estuary and make the water cleaner. The plants will help to protect our historic sites and create new areas for our manu (native birds) and lizards to thrive in,” said Wharekonehu Te Moni from the Papahikahawai Trust.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council Chairman Doug Leeder attended the ceremony on Friday. He said that it is a pleasure to be able to work with tangata whenua and other groups on projects like this.
“It’s visionary to be here today, and be a part of protecting environmental, historical and cultural values. We need to do more to work to ensure that Māori values towards land and water are present in our work for the environment, not only regionally but nationally as well,” Chairman Leeder said.
The Papahikahawai Island restoration project is closely linked to Regional Council’s plans to re-divert twenty percent of the Kaituna River flow back into Ongatoro/Maketu Estuary and create 20 hectares of new wetland in the estuary by 2019.
Physical work on the re-diversion is scheduled to start this summer. As part of the re-diversion project, vehicle and stock access to Papahikahawai will be severed. The island owners have agreed to collaborate by retiring and replanting the island.
Over the coming 10 years, more than 50,000 native plants will be planted across nearly 15 hectares of Papahikahawai Island. Thousands of hours of weed and animal pest control work will also be completed.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Nga Whenua Rahui are sharing the $534,000 cost of the project. Te Runanga o Ngati Whakaue ki Maketu have been contracted to complete the first year of planting, with assistance from four local community groups.