Iwi restores wetland at Matawhero

SIGNIFICANT WETLAND: Te Maungarongo o Te Kooti Rikirangi Reserve Restoration Project trustee Adam Wharehinga says the hapu wants to restore Te Maungarongo as a premier shallow lake and wetland complex. Picture by Liam Clayton
View of Te Maungarongo o Te Kooti Rikirangi Reserve Restoration Project.
View of Te Maungarongo o Te Kooti Rikirangi Reserve Restoration Project.

RESTORATION work at a significant wetland at Matawhero, just out of Gisborne, has begun.

Te Maungarongo o Te Kooti Rikirangi Reserve is one of the few remaining wetlands in the region.

It is home to a variety of migratory and non-migratory indigenous birds, the critically endangered matuku (Australasian bittern), and threatened species like fernbird and spotless crake.

Hidden behind vineyards, plant nurseries and farmland, it was once part of a flowing river system highly valued to tangata whenua of the district.

In 2014, the Crown returned ownership of the reserve to the Nga Uri o Te Kooti Rikirangi Trust.

“Te Maungarongo comprises an important part, he taonga tuku iho, of the cultural, ecological, and socio-economic landscape of Nga Uri o Te Kooti Rikirangi,” Nga Uri o Te Kooti Rikirangi Trust trustee Adam Wharehinga said.

“Traditionally, this area provided an important venue for the gathering of food, including tuna and mullet, and the wide range of materials necessary for the wellbeing of the people.

“Early findings from Europeans who came here, soon after Captain James Cook, described the land as phenomenal, lush kahikatea forest, tall timbers, and teeming with bird and fish life.

“It was just normal.”

Previously known as the Matawhero Wildlife Management Reserve, Te Maungarongo covers 48 hectares of an abandoned oxbow of the Waipaoa River, closed off from the river’s flow in 1948 as part of the Waipaoa Flood Control Scheme.

Wetland environment

Since then it has become an extensive and varied wetland environment amid an intensive horticultural landscape.

Much of it is overgrown with weeds, choked with willows, and plagued with introduced pests that feast on native birds that make the ecologically sensitive site home.

The Trust aspires to restore Te Maungarongo as an outstanding shallow lake and wetland complex.

“There is no way we are going to restore it back to that original state, but at least we can learn to enhance and protect this valuable habitat for a wide variety of indigenous bird, reptile, and invertebrate forms of life."

The restoration project is vast, with many incremental steps that aim to integrate ecological improvements with recreational, fisheries, research and educational values while providing an important community asset. It is also a key component in the hapu’s overall socio-economic and cultural development strategy.

This will eventually include increasing accessibility and building boardwalks and pathways for public access, in ways that do not disturb the sensitive habitat.

At a social level, Te Maungarongo is reconnecting the hapu with its environment.

“It will help provide a source of inspiration and wellbeing for the wider community and will provide opportunities for research, education, and economic development for Nga Uri whanau and the wider community," Mr Wharehinga said.

“The education side of it is partly to correct the stories told about our tupuna (ancestors) as part of the redress. There has been a lot of stigma around our ancestor, Te Kooti, and the family has had to carry that.

Opportunity for reprieve

“We have been marginalised in many ways, and this whenua (land) represents an opportunity for reprieve. It has that healing component to it. There is no place like this in Gisborne.”

Over the past year Mr Wharehinga has been in discussions with many groups in the district, including Gisborne District Council, the Department of Conservation, regional ecologists and neighbouring landowners.

Earlier this month they met at Matawhero Winery to discuss the current and future developments of Te Maungarongo.

“This meeting marked a significant point in the journey to developing this regionally significant wetland,” Mr Wharehinga said.

“With their expertise and knowledge, we hope to foster a deeper collaborative approach to protecting and enhancing this very rare taonga (treasure).”

RESTORATION work at a significant wetland at Matawhero, just out of Gisborne, has begun.

Te Maungarongo o Te Kooti Rikirangi Reserve is one of the few remaining wetlands in the region.

It is home to a variety of migratory and non-migratory indigenous birds, the critically endangered matuku (Australasian bittern), and threatened species like fernbird and spotless crake.

Hidden behind vineyards, plant nurseries and farmland, it was once part of a flowing river system highly valued to tangata whenua of the district.

In 2014, the Crown returned ownership of the reserve to the Nga Uri o Te Kooti Rikirangi Trust.

“Te Maungarongo comprises an important part, he taonga tuku iho, of the cultural, ecological, and socio-economic landscape of Nga Uri o Te Kooti Rikirangi,” Nga Uri o Te Kooti Rikirangi Trust trustee Adam Wharehinga said.

“Traditionally, this area provided an important venue for the gathering of food, including tuna and mullet, and the wide range of materials necessary for the wellbeing of the people.

“Early findings from Europeans who came here, soon after Captain James Cook, described the land as phenomenal, lush kahikatea forest, tall timbers, and teeming with bird and fish life.

“It was just normal.”

Previously known as the Matawhero Wildlife Management Reserve, Te Maungarongo covers 48 hectares of an abandoned oxbow of the Waipaoa River, closed off from the river’s flow in 1948 as part of the Waipaoa Flood Control Scheme.

Wetland environment

Since then it has become an extensive and varied wetland environment amid an intensive horticultural landscape.

Much of it is overgrown with weeds, choked with willows, and plagued with introduced pests that feast on native birds that make the ecologically sensitive site home.

The Trust aspires to restore Te Maungarongo as an outstanding shallow lake and wetland complex.

“There is no way we are going to restore it back to that original state, but at least we can learn to enhance and protect this valuable habitat for a wide variety of indigenous bird, reptile, and invertebrate forms of life."

The restoration project is vast, with many incremental steps that aim to integrate ecological improvements with recreational, fisheries, research and educational values while providing an important community asset. It is also a key component in the hapu’s overall socio-economic and cultural development strategy.

This will eventually include increasing accessibility and building boardwalks and pathways for public access, in ways that do not disturb the sensitive habitat.

At a social level, Te Maungarongo is reconnecting the hapu with its environment.

“It will help provide a source of inspiration and wellbeing for the wider community and will provide opportunities for research, education, and economic development for Nga Uri whanau and the wider community," Mr Wharehinga said.

“The education side of it is partly to correct the stories told about our tupuna (ancestors) as part of the redress. There has been a lot of stigma around our ancestor, Te Kooti, and the family has had to carry that.

Opportunity for reprieve

“We have been marginalised in many ways, and this whenua (land) represents an opportunity for reprieve. It has that healing component to it. There is no place like this in Gisborne.”

Over the past year Mr Wharehinga has been in discussions with many groups in the district, including Gisborne District Council, the Department of Conservation, regional ecologists and neighbouring landowners.

Earlier this month they met at Matawhero Winery to discuss the current and future developments of Te Maungarongo.

“This meeting marked a significant point in the journey to developing this regionally significant wetland,” Mr Wharehinga said.

“With their expertise and knowledge, we hope to foster a deeper collaborative approach to protecting and enhancing this very rare taonga (treasure).”

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