“Visionary” Rongokako Marine Reserve celebrates 20th anniversary

updated By Te Ao - Māori News

A 20-year partnership between Ngāti Konohi and the Department of Conservation (DOC) to protect the marine environment of Te Tapuwae o Rongokako in Te Tairāwhiti has given rise to abundant marine life.

“It was a visionary initiative at the time,” Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage says.  “It’s exciting because the marine reservation has acted as a kōhanga and has spilt over with the increase in crayfish into the surrounding ocean that has restored the mana of Whāngārā Marae, the ability to host manuhiri and provide kai from the neighbouring mahinga mātaitai.”

Ngāti Konohi Chief Judge Heemi Taumaunu says it actually started 30 years ago, the first 10 years were conversations and discussions about the reserve with some of the old people that are smiling down on us today.  “It’s a great environment now for our children to learn about their Ngāti Konohi histories, ancestors and whakapapa.”

The reserve was established in 1999 as a result of a joint application by Ngati Konohi and the Department of Conservation. After 20 years of protection, the benefits are evident with an abundance and variety of marine life within the reserve.

“The Marine Reserve Committee is very proud of the development of the marine reserve in the 20 years since its establishment,” Marine Reserve Committee chairperson Jacqueline Blake says. “We acknowledge Ngāti Konohi, Marine Reserve Committee members past and present, DOC, the Gisborne District Council, community groups, and the public for their support over the years.”

A range of activities and talks about the historical significance of the reserve to iwi and the joint partnership with DOC also took place as part of celebrations, including snorkelling, a walk to the pā site and more.

“Highlights over the last twenty years have ranged from increases in fish abundance and scientific research to road improvements that have allowed the community to learn more about this unique environment,” DOC’s Biodiversity Ranger Jamie Quirk says.  “The marine reserve is a valuable place for wildlife and people alike.”