Funding boost to future proof Waiapu

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

The One Billion Trees Fund is allocating $5 million to address key environmental issues in the Waiapu Catchment, one of the East Cape's most rapidly eroding catchments.

Te Wiwi Nāti Trust and Te Riu o Waiapu Trust Partnership representative Hilton Collier says, “We're seeing the kaitiaki of the Waiapu being enabled by having additional resources, by leveraging up the work that they want to do in their community.”

Forestry Minister Shane Jones says, “Let us not forget this was the instruction of the late Dr Apirana Mahuika to Crown, to find a way to regenerate the Waiapu River."

Whakaoratia te mana o te Waiapu, a partnership between Te Wiwi Nati Trust and Te Riu o Waiapu Trust Partnership, will deliver a package of four projects over the next ten years.

“By planting trees, by digging pools to retain the erosion within forests and by teaching the next generation how to restore that river," says Jones.

Collier says, “And it shows that if the whānau can convince others of their desire for genuine change, there are those who recognise it and I think the contribution from the Crown and GDC (Gisborne District Council) is significant enough to start it and to continue the work that whānau have been doing for many years.”

The projects include the construction of a series of debris dams across the Waiapu catchment, a river corridor project, establishment of a nursery to support riparian planting, and capacity building of employees in the region.

“It's similar to Waikato and Tainui, to Hokianga and Ngāpuhi, it's not just water, it's as if it carries the spiritual and physical bloodlines of Ngāti Porou," says Jones.

Collier says it is not just about the planting, it's about the legacy that the project will leave.

"If we can create small businesses, if we can grow the capability and capacity within our rural communities and make them more resilient, I think that's a win not only for the environment but also for our people.

This is a project designed by the whānau, who will in the long-term live with the outcomes of that project, so it's very very exciting for everyone.”

The Gisborne District Council will also provide a $1 million in-kind contribution to the project.