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Restoring Maungarongo

‘Proud to be kaitiaki of such a special place’.

Descendants of Te Kooti started planting 1600 native trees at the Maungarongo wetland at Matawhero yesterday as part of a restoration project.

The Maungarongo Restoration Project is funded through Te Rea — the Tairawhiti Agroecology Recovery Programme.

Te Rea is helping tangata whenua breathe life back into their lands through indigenous knowledge and practice, while creating a sustainable industry for their whanau.

Four descendants are working as kaitiaki (guardians) of the area, with help from whanau from Tarere Marae and Uawa.

“Without their help it would be a very long, hard day,” said Kennzy Hotene, a kaiarahi (leader) of the project.

“This whenua was given back to Nga uri o Te Kooti as part of their settlement claims,” she said.

“We are aiming to plant 1600 natives on this whenua over the next few weeks.

“We hope that manu (birds) will return to this area.”

A kahikatea ngahere (forest) is near the area that was planted yesterday.

“This is what Gisborne looked like pre-European arrival.

“We are all uri of Te Kooti and this has given us the chance to work off our whenua (land) on behalf of our tipuna (ancestors),” Kennzy said.

“We have a connection through whakapapa. We are from Rongowhakaata and we are proud to be kaitiaki of such a special place.”

Among those planting natives was Amber Hiroti, of Nga uri o Te Kooti, and daughter Aziza.

“Its important to make the connection back to the whenua to educate tamariki on what restoration is.”

This wetland was once a part of Waipaoa River.

All plants were eco-sourced from their own whenua or local nurseries.

“We want the whole land covered in natives.”

The next steps include working with neighbours of the wetland to do riparian planting.

If anyone is interested in helping with the mahi (work), contact Kennzy at 021-490-046.

NATIVE PLANTINGS: Te Rea’s Sean Kemp and Kennzy Hotene (middle) and Nga Uri o Te Kooti’s Amber Hiroti plant native trees in the Maungarongo wetland at Matawhero as part of a restoration project. Picture by Paul Rickard