The Māori landowners of Mt Huruiki on the east coast of Northland are aiming to plant 33,000 native seedlings to help restore the waters feeding into Kaipara Harbour, and have scaled the Northland peak to survey their efforts.
The mahi was undertaken as part of the Waimā, Waitai, Waiora, and Te Kawa Waiora projects to help restore and protect the Kaipara moana catchment.
Brandon Edwards, who has whakapapa links to the whenua, is now inviting others to join him in sustainable land management.
"Huruiki was alienated from Māori ownership in 1961, and my wife and I were fortunate enough to buy Huruiki back in 2011, 50 years later."
"When we bought Huruiki, it was roughly two-thirds farmland, one-third native bush, and pine forest. Our visions, our aspirations for the whenua are to flip that ratio upside down."
Formed in 2017, Waimā, Waitai, Waiora is a collective of Northland organisations, stakeholders, and tangata whenua assisting landowners to implement sustainable land management practices on their lands, no matter the size.
'Can't wait for government'
Te Kawa Waiora is a research project, inspired by the hearts and minds of marae, hapū, and iwi of the Wairoa River, which feeds into the Kaipara, to improve the health and mauri of the river and its tributaries.
The project, overseen by Reconnecting Northland, is focused on bringing together the people of the awa through hui wānanga, to discuss a new pathway of ecological management, based on mātauranga Māori.
Lead researcher Charles Royal says iwi are ready to be the drivers of guardianship.
"The time has truly come to allow kaitiaki from different whānau, hapu, iwi, and marae to formulate their own strategy for the environment."
"So this notion of kaitiakitanga and notions of being people of the land is dispersed throughout the country."
Local mātauranga Māori expert Rereata Mākiha, who made the journey up the mountain agrees with Royal and says iwi cannot wait for the government.
"If we wait for the government, how many hundreds of years will pass, with not one thing done."