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Recloaking The Whenua event reaches big audience

Hundreds of people attended the online event ‘Recloaking The Whenua' that saw many viwers get engaged in discussions around permanent native regeneration for the whenua last week.

The event was supposed to be held in Lawson Field Theatre but had to be moved online, due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“In many ways taking it online meant a much bigger audience could participate than what would have fitted into Lawson Field Theatre. We had a number of experts join us who weren't on the programme but contributed to the discussion online,” lead organiser Manu Caddie said.

Over 1000 people viewed the broadcast throughout the day with an average of about 200 people watching at a time.

“That was many more than we were expecting,” he said.

The event started off with a Karakia –Maori prayer- followed by the first speaker of the day and New Zealand anthropologist Dame Anne Salmond.

Ms Salmond “collapsed” an entire millennium of land use of Tairawhiti starting with a wider focus on New Zealand and then focusing on the impacts in Turanganui-a-Kiwa.

She said that native plating should be if not equal but, be valued higher than exotic forestry. As indigineous forests were more reliable in carbon sequestration in the longer run, this was an “incentive” that should be looked at by the government.

Ms Salmond said it was possible especially for farmers and growers not only “recloak the land” but also make a good living and thanked the “pioneers” who were involved in helping the future by their regenerative initiatives.

The event was divided into five sessions and consisted of about 20 speakers. Discussions were held around topics like local and national plans for the conversion to indigenous forestry and regulations and policy that governed them.

Carbon farming, commercial opportunities, economic and the socio-cultural wellbeing of native forests were some of the other ideas that were debated on as well.

Mr Caddie who also was the moderating the Q&A sessions said some of the questions were technical, like carbon sequestration calculations and pest control measures while others were more ontological.

For example, “What is our shared understanding of kaitiakitanga and how can it be incorporated into land use in the region?”

“I think the most controversial issues are going to be reviewing the science on carbon sequestration rates for native forests and the need for far more research and investment in industries utilising indigenous trees and plants,” he said.

Mr Caddie who is also the cofounder of Hikurangi Bioactives Limited Partnership says that region “urgently” needs to develop a transition plan that would carefully manage the “inevitable reversion” of pasture to forest.

He said it would be made possible by creating an ongoing employment that is connected to native forests as exotic forestry and pastoral farming decline in the region.

The event ended with Hamiora Gibson from the Landcare Research who explored on ideas like how to optimise biodiversity, recloak the whenua and the involvement of people.

The idea to conduct such an event was originally planned by lead organisers Mr Caddie and Renee Raroa who is from Ngati Porou and also represented Toha- a start-up- as its regional lead.

“A couple of months before, both of us just got together and saw that are a lot of people were interested but also it was an area that a whole lot of information was kind of out there but was not accessible.

“So that is why we decided to hold,” Ms Raroa said.

She said the event was a result of some finidings in the report commisioned by Trust Tairawhiti, that compares the environmental, social and financial impacts of carbon farming in the region.

Ms Raroa said the original vision behind the event was to promote discussion among landowners, as community leaders and residents with the option to native tree regeneration across the region.

“I think we definitely achieved that,” she said.

On behalf of all the speakers who had volunteered for the event. A koha of $1000 was given to Women's Native Tree Project Trust.

Mr Caddie says that they hope to meet with the Gisborne District Council and Trust Tairāwhiti in the next week or so to see if there is support to create an ongoing series of similar events with local and national experts.

“Mostly for locals to have an ongoing safe and sensible conversation.”

LIVE ON AIR: Renee Raroa says that the purpose of environmental start-up Toha is to network and provide infrastructure to help build new ways to finance projects, especially ventures that are involved in regeneration. Pictures supplied
GOING ONLINE: Trust Tairawhiti economic development manager Jared Johnstone (left) and Tom Paton of Rangai Studio monitor the session four presentation by Renee Roaroa of Toha.