Today marks a milestone in efforts to protect threatened species and biodiversity on nearly 7,000 hectares of privately owned Māori land in the central North Island. A pact between landowners, the Minister of Conservation and Ngā Whenua Rāhui has been signed, giving rise to eco-tourism opportunities, predator-free strategies and other land management plans.
Owhaoko A Lands Trust chair Arapiu Seymour says, “Our job now is to employ our people to foster the ecosystem.”
The trust represents more than 3,500 owners for the piece of land. Their goals compliment the long-term strategy of the Department of Conservation (DOC) and those of the government.
Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage says, “The putea from Ngā Whenua Rahui provides $1.7 million that will help the Owhaoko Trust protect their lands, provide funding for pest control, deer, possums, rats, weeds like Pinus contorta wilding and pruning gorse.
The land is also home to 1,900ha of wild mānuka.
“You can’t cultivate the land or plant trees. However, mānuka trees are everywhere and so we’ve created a busy [area] for honey. We’re hoping to market our produce in places such as airports.”
The $1.7mil will also support local Māori in their existing eco-toursim ventures and assist increased public connection with nature and heritage in the Kāweka and Kaimanawa Forest Parks.
Ngā Whenua Rahui deputy chair Kevin Prime says, “This is one of the largest blocks of land that we’ve signed. From here we will head over to Tūhoe to sign a covenant for 10,000ha.”
In around six months, Tūhoe landowners will be the second signatories with Ngā Whenua Rahu.