National | Environment

Iwi-led Southland charity helping rangatahi into environmental restoration mahi

An iwi-led Southland environmental charity is helping rangatahi into new careers and turning its attention to large-scale restoration projects.

Te Tapu o Tāne is owned by Ki Papatipu Rūnanga o Murihiku and celebrated its first year on Wednesday by opening their southern nursery, Te Kōhaka o Tāne (The Nest of Tānemahuta).

Their mahi included regenerating and reinstating wetlands, riparian margins, and bringing back native forestry cover as well as commercially providing catchment rehabilitation from te ao Māori perspective.

Te Tapu o Tāne previously received more than $2 million of Jobs for Nature funding over three years to establish three native plant nurseries and undertake restoration projects, as well as close to $2m from the One Billion Trees programme.

The charity originally aimed to provide career pathways for up to 25 kaimahi (employees) over three years, but they already have 30 across two nurseries in Southland and Queenstown with a focus on rangatahi Māori.

Kaimahi learn on-the-job with skills including tree planting, project management, horticulture, freshwater monitoring, and GIS mapping,

Te Tapu o Tāne pou tūraka / chief executive Jana Davis said it had not been hard to find the right people who cared.

"It is a young energetic hapū and we are all in it together," Davis said.

"We have made strong relationships with the local businesses and the community and, of course, there is the existing relationships that sit at that mana to mana level between Mana Whenua and Crown Agencies," he said.

"Combating climate change requires all stakeholders working together, we are here to play our part, boots on the ground mahi, to help push towards the vision of the rūnanga for climate resilience and connection to land and water."

Te Tapu o Tāne has grown, sold, and planted more than 150,000 plants, and are gearing up for two large-scale restoration projects.

They included planting 15,000 native trees and taonga species in Cromwell on Lake Dunstan, and 15,500 natives on the front face of Paharaaki / Coronet Peak, with plans to expand that number in the coming years.

"We chose Central Lakes due to its high foot traffic. People will see the change as they drive past the mauka (mountain)," Davis said.

"This project is a way to combat climate change at scale. Our work will be a prototype for showcasing to the rest of the world how a small country like Aotearoa can make an impact.

"Successful restoration is about creating a relationship between community and te Taiao (natural environment)."

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