Kaitiakitanga Program and Network
7.3.2a Whirinaki Catchment Restoration Stg A- Project Details:
The Whirinaki catchment is not what it used to be in the days of our Tipuna. Many years of forestry, farming and other activities have destroyed its original nature. Worse still, many exotic weeds like gorse, blackberry, ragwort, broom, willow, brambles are taking over and destroying a once pristine native rainforest environment.
Our catchment restoration project will start with a few areas that many have identified as urgent. Our native nursery project will be a key component in replanting activity, but there is also much cleanup that can be done using some of our village's forestry workgroups in off season times, providing local income and work for our community.
Even before we reach the valley of Whirinaki, we see pines towering over regenerating native bush. The pines may well have once been a nursery species for the natives, but now they are intrusion that need not be there.
As we enter Te Whaiti the valley opens up and we abruptly leave the native bush.
We pass an area that was cleared in 2003 by Fish and Game who were awarded government funding to do so. They left unsightly piles of stumps now growing blackberry. Local seed was provided to the project for propagation by another nursery. Some small areas of this were replanted by the children of our school, but much more planting needed to be done.
In mid 2006 our community heard a whisper that more government funding had been awarded for a further cleanup and planting project along the Whirinaki river, so immediately made enquiries about how local people could be awarded the work to do this, to provide employment in our valley and to help support the establishment of our Nursery. We were advised at the time that no such project or work existed, nor did our Runanga then know of any official approaches to do this.
Around November 2006, the sign below appeared on our riverbank.
We are very supportive of restoration projects in our valley, particularly when our children can be involved, but find it unreasonable that our Iwi and community are not acknowledged in this. Even more difficult is the suggestion that "hopefully this project will encourage more restoration in this catchment and other parts of the region"; a sense of local responsibility that our kaitiakitanga programme is already drawing attention to both locally and internationally. We note that this being funded by government agencies, when in Nov 2005 our local Minginui Community (which is desperately seeking work for it's people) made an application to the MfE Sustainable Management Fund that was declined on the grounds that there were no funds available!!
Without native replanting to counter them and local people caring for the place, weeds are now returning in the area that was cleared in 2003.
In the background is Umurakau, the fortified pa that guards the entry to the valley. This is a Wahi Tapu (sacred place) where historical fortification terraces are being destroyed by a pine forest planted on it in the 1980's. If there are trees on Umurakau they should rightly be native.
Compare that with Umurakau as it was painted by John Hugh Boscawen in 1809 (held in National Library, Wellington)
Now it seems local forestry operators on our land are mining it for roading.
Passing Waikotikoti Marae we see pine trees on the hillside behind it, amidst the regenerating native bush. Some of these are dying and if they fell from the soft pumice banks could destroy our Wharenui, Hine Nui te Po which is the house of our ancestors.
As we look back from the Whirinaki Bridge at Te Whaiti, where in the 1950's we would have seen a thriving town with housing, shops, police station, church, garage, post office, billiards saloon and hall, we now see riverbanks totally engulfed in blackberry and weeds.
As we continue we pass the fertile river flats on which our grandparents grew expansive gardens, now too covered in weeds. It would be great to see them being used again to help supply our community with good fresh food or at least replanted with Native. In the background we see clear felling forestry operations which are currently both dirtying the Whirinaki and encouraging flooding.
Compare this with what Thomas Ryan saw and painted in 1891 when he looked up the Whirinaki River valley over Murumurunga Pa. Large areas of land were under cultivation and was being cared for by our tipuna , before they lost contol of their land.
On the road to Minginui we pass today's Murumurunga Marae, flanked by exotic trees where once tall natives stood.
Beyond the marae we pass sites where old dead pines adjacent to the cemetery have been removed, and the area is awaiting replanting.
We see that the Kura rebuilding programme to accommodate the school merger, required that the old pine trees and other vegetation on the site be removed. This is another area that requires replanting to prevent erosion and takeover by weeds.
From the Waikaremoana Road hill we see where the exotic forest abruptly boundaries with Te Urewera National Park. The burnt off boundary strip is a sensitive regenerating ecological area into which pines are self seeding. This needs controlling.
From the farmland belonging to Andrew Macdonald between Te Whaiti and Minginui we have commanding views over the valley. Many of the farm streams have retained their native vegetation to reduce runoff and pollution of the Whirinaki river.
Just before Minginui we take the road down to the beautiful Maungamate Waterfall reserve and camping area. Here the road edges have been sprayed. We would like to see these replanted with native species.
The camping areas are flanked by bramble bushes, blackberry and other weeds . This could be a very attractive native grove in the future.
The brambles, willows and blackberries are even encroaching on our beautiful Maungamate Waterfall!!
Flanking Minginui Village we see areas where a very aggressive self seeding pine species is taking over. These we want to destroy before they encroach too widely into the valley and National Park.
In Minginui we have a small streambed passing through our village. This is a priority that we will replant in with native flaxes and other species that will help absorb outflows from septic tanks, blackwater and other run off before they reach the waterway. See also our toxin decontamination project
Beyond Minginui on the River Road that takes visitors to the Whirinaki Forest, we often pass through clear felled exotic forest areas that boundary the park which have been sprayed with defoliant before replanting. In such an ecologically sensitive and beautiful environment, we wonder if some changes could be made to prevent such an embarrassing eyesore for our international and other visitors.
To the left is a riverbed area which was gifted in posterity to the Queen Elizabeth II Trust which we need to look after.
When we reach the Whirinaki Rainforest we are blown away by its richness and the clarity of the Whirinaki River water compared with what we saw as we entered the lower end of the valley. There are actions we could take in the catchment to improve that situation.
This project has not formally started Nov 2005 . We are looking for funding partners to help make it happen. Our plan is to concentrate firstly on the village stream area, but always be on the watch for ways in which the other areas could be tackled.
Nominal Project Leader:
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