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Breathing life into the land

Te Rea programme aims to connect, educate and restore

A new ecological restoration kaupapa in Tairawhiti is working to enhance tangata whenua aspirations for whanau and their whenua.

Te Rea — Tairawhiti Agroecology Recovery Programme is helping tangata whenua breathe life back into their lands through their own design, with indigenous knowledge and practice, while creating a sustainable industry for their whanau.

Ecological restoration, socio-economic development, community wellbeing and the revitalisation of traditional knowledge (matauranga) are all desired outcomes of the kaupapa.

Te Rea is a collaborative venture of hapu/iwi, Department of Conservation, the Ministry for the Environment and the Tairawhiti Environment Centre, supported by a range of government agencies, including the Ministry of Social Development working towards catchment restoration in Tairawhiti.

Te Rea programme manager Ranell Nikora says the focus of Te Rea is to enable whanau to undertake kaitiakitanga as they define it on their own whenua.

“The overarching vision is to restore the mauri by relearning and restoring our traditional practices and returning mana whenua to those obligated with the responsibility of kaitiakitanga,” Ranell said.

“It is believed this will not only correct the mauri of our taiao, but also the mauri of our people.”

The impact of colonisation has had a devastating effect on the mauri of the land and the people of the land, programme kaitautoko (supporter) Panapa Ehau said.

“We, tangata whenua, believe that by returning to our own matauranga, we will be able to make the right decisions for our taiao.

“This would include researching our own models of indigenous biodiversity enhancement. Whanau and hapu should be empowered to take on this role of leadership if restoration and biodiversity enhancement is to be successful with local and central government providing support.”

Several projects throughout Tairawhiti are already under way, designed to generate land-based opportunity and the creation of more than 60 jobs (across the entire programme) with wrap-around capability and business development support.

The current projects are being carried out on landblocks and water bodies that are in private or joint-Maori ownership and all centre around riparian/catchment restoration in rural/agricultural areas.

One of the featured projects is the Uawa Taniwha Connections project, which has been running on voluntary power and the passion of the local people.

“I have been volunteering since my 2012 diploma and I fell in love with tuna (the eel). I continued on with my studies to gain a Bachelor’s degree in Te Mana Ao Turoa Taiao,” team leader Mere Tamanui said.

“Te Rea to us is like the kumara, as we would say in Te Aitanga a Hauiti. Te Rea has been a salvation to our whanau of Taniwha Connections to continue to learn, grow and share the knowledge of matauranga Maori and kaitiakitanga taiao (environmental guardianship).”

“We are most excited in creating relationships with nga whanau whanui o Te Tairawhiti. Connecting ‘whanau ki te whenua’ is to increase the biodiversity of that space.”

DoC Senior Capability Development Adviser Charles Barrie said, “it has been a privilege to represent Te Papa Atawhai and work with whanau in the development of this programme. Te Rea has the potential for enormous restoration activity across Tairawhiti”.

Tairawhiti Agroecology Recovery Project received a $4.8 million investment from the Government through the $1.1 billion Jobs for Nature package in the 2020 Budget, which aims to create 11,000 environment jobs in regions in response to Covid-19.

LEARNING: Te Rea Aka (teams) learning how to identify native trees at a wananga at Waihirere Domain in October. Pictures supplied by Te Rea
SHARING KNOWLEDGE: Te Rea’s Mere Tamanui and Ruatorea team members at the Te Rea induction wananga at Te Poho o Rawiri Marae.