Planting natives to hold the land for future generations

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Takitimu Marae and urupā in Wairoa are at risk of erosion by the river, so the whanau are planting 5000 native trees to future-proof the riverbank and save the marae and tūpāpaku.

Wairoa River Restoration Project manager Michelle McIlroy says climate change is having a measurable impact, “Highly erodible lands, so everything has been stripped of trees so that has caused a lot of sedimentation to run into our awa, that's also getting high e.coli levels so in the summer we can't swim in our awa.”

A commemorative planting, honouring the Māori soldiers who went to war, some buried in the marae cemetery.

Wairoa River Restoration Project cultural impact assessment co-ordinator Katarina Kawana says, “To acknowledge our many relations and whanaunga that went to battle out in the different wars, right to the Boer War to the present day wars, to acknowledge them the Honour Roll at Tātou Tātou whare nei here.”

“It was put together by our last 28 Māori Battalion a few years back and that's all our Māori soldiers in Te Wairoa”, says McIlroy.

The planting event is a collaboration between Wairoa awa restoration project, Hawkes Bay regional council, Te uru Rakau and Takitimu Marae.

Catchment manager for the Hawke’s Bay District Council, Nathan Heath says, “When she floods when cuts banks you can put in structures you can put in controls but they're millions and millions of dollars so we sort of have to learn to live a little bit more with the awa and do what we can in important places like urupā and marae to protect them for as long as we can.”

Not an isolated issue, the Wairoa River is infamous for flooding and erosion and continues to threaten the sustainability of many Māori reservations along the river.

McIlroy says the effect of climate change is real and marae need to adapt.

“Down the road one of the urupā there, they're having to repatriate their tūpuna, 53 graves because with the climate change, the erosion, they have to move them and that put a focus for us on the 17 marae on this awa”, says McIlroy.

Other local marae will conduct similar plantings next year.