The Waiheke Way to Love our Wetlands

16 Dec 2020 by Rosa Thompson Auckland

Million Metres has been partnering with the Waiheke Resources Trust since 2017. This year their wetland restoration work has blossomed with support from the Government's Jobs for Nature Fund. Since August, they’ve employed 21 part and full time team members, teaching valuable skills in ecological restoration and providing much needed employment for people in the tourism sector. Read on for a great account of a recent trip to Waiheke by our new Water Programme Lead, Pieter Tuinder.

As a new recruit to SBN, this was my first excursion into the field. I was excited to see our Million Metres’ partner Waiheke Resources Trust’s (WRT) work in action. We caught the Ferry from Downtown Auckland dutifully wearing our masks in this new Covid world. I have always enjoyed this journey, passing the predator-free motu of Rangitoto-Motutapu, Motukorea and Te Motu-a-Ihenga that are now thriving with taonga species.

Waiheke Wharf. Michael Maahs, General Manager of the Trust, picked us up in their fully electric van and off we went to experience their ‘Love our Wetlands’ work.

Rangihoua Wetland was our first stop, where we were joined by Kristin Busherand Kym Rawson. This is an important habitat for rare species, overlooked by the historic landing place of the Te Arawa waka. WRT and the community have been regenerating this intertidal waterway network that meanders around the golf course and local reserves.

The results are impressive. Noxious weeds are being tackled. Native plantings are starting to flourish. Kym, ecology guru, gave us a non-stop commentary of their innovative methods – his passion in full flow. I was impressed with the deep understanding of the local environment. I liked their cost-efficient method of minimal plant releasing. Just a quick stamping down of weeds around the native plant enables soil moisture to be retained and prevents new weeds being established, achieving over 90% survival rates. I also loved their use of cut pampas as mulch to suppress weeds.

Their ability to tackle established privet forests was particularly compelling. They use a clever multi-year process of partial clearing, then native plantings to shade out privet and ringbarking the privet rather than wholesale clearance. Their whole philosophy is about sustainable regeneration, clever use of all resources at hand, minimising effort whilst maximising results, and staying the course to give our native plants and species the chance to flourish.

Our second stop was Piritahi marae. The whanau were busy harvesting kina roe – an environmental initiative to save local kelp beds. “Have a feed” was the immediate greeting. I hesitated. My mixed past experience cautioned me, but I could not ignore their manaakitanga, their generosity. I was pleasantly surprised – the roe was sweet and salty. I went back for more. I asked why it was so sweet? They pointed to the flowering pohutukawa trees – this is when the kina are sweetest. This was a simple demonstration of the deep knowledge of mana whenua to understand and work with the seasonal rhythms of the natural world.

Jobs for Nature funding has helped the marae and WRT to employ locals, including mana whenua, to regenerate the wetland adjoining Piritahi Marae. Funds raised from Million Metres have paid for plants and preparation work. They are tackling serious infestations of pampas, banana passion vine, ginger and climbing asparagus. This is a major undertaking but early results are promising. An area of the native kuta reed is bouncing back. Kuta is used for weaving and is a treasured taonga for the marae. This gives the field team hope and encouragement that this hard sustained hard mahi is very much worth the effort.

I departed Waiheke with new learning and hope that the mauri of these precious habitats can be restored through dedicated effort and understanding of how to work with our nature. Waiheke Resources Trust is delivering great value for the funding they receive from Million Metres and from Jobs for Nature funding through the Department of Conservation. This is the power of collaboration to achieve great results.

I like my new job.

Piet Tuinder

Programme Manager, Sustainable Business Network