Native plant near extinction to be returned to iwi

A native plant brought back from the brink of extinction at Scion is being returned to iwi at an official ceremony today in Rotorua.

A rare white-flowered version of the usually red ngutukākā was last seen growing in the wild in the 1950s at Tiniroto cliffs near Wairoa on the East Coast of the North Island and was considered extinct.

General Manager Forest Science, Scion, Brian Richardson, says,  “A chance discovery of a bag of seeds stored in a member of the public’s garden shed, has led to the recovery of the native plant.   

“We’ve been working with iwi, the Department of Conservation, Landcare Research, and the Ngutuk ākā Recovery Group to preserve these native plants, safeguarding their survival for future generations.  

“Over the last four years staff at Scion’s research nursery have grown the rare white ngutukākā from seed, applying their propagation expertise and increasing the likelihood of these plants surviving in their natural environment.”  

Karen Te Kani who led the project says  “The white ngutuk ākā is considered precious taonga to East Coast iwi.  About one hundred plants are being gifted back to Ngati Kohatu and Ngati Hinehika iwi to be planted back on their ancestral land.   

“A block of land surrounding Te Reinga marae at Wairoa has been fenced off to keep pests out in preparation for the plants.  We will also be providing iwi with a guide on how best to ensure the plants survival.”

Ngutukākā is New Zealand’s most widely recognised endangered plant and was one of the earliest plants to receive conservation attention.