Since early 2023, anyone travelling on State Highway 6 near Canvastown has seen the landscape transforming from invasive willows to mulch, native seedlings and plant guards. This Ngāti Kuia-led initiative to restore Ruapaka Wetland embodies Te Hoiere Project aspirations of targeted restoration, cultural participation and whānau employment for tangata whenua.
Ruapaka was a very early and significant Ngāti Kuia settlement, located on an important trail and waka route from Motuweka (Havelock) on Te Hoiere River. It was also a significant source of harakeke and celebrated eel fishery, as well as an area which contains urupa where Ngāti Kuia tūpuna are buried. The area is associated with Hemi Whiro of Te Hora, who was famous for his craft of building waka as well as his status as a prominent 19th century leader. In the 1860s, Hemi built Te Whitio, perhaps his most famous waka. He gave it to his relative Kereopa Ngarangi, who was rangatira of Ruapaka alongside his cousin Hama Hamuera. It was a symbol of the communities coming together and used to transport goods from Kaituna to waiting ships at Mahakipaoa. The remains of Te Whitio are now housed at Canterbury Museum.
More about the intergenerational significance of this site:
- Te Hoiere in the DNA for conservationist Waihaere Mason
- Restoring the mauri to our special places
- Waka provides a link to Marlborough's past
Ngāti Kuia leads this project to restore this site of significance with its field crew, Ngā Toki Kai Ahuone. Members of Ngā Toki Kai Ahuone were trained through a Ngāti Kuia-NMIT partnership in horticulture. They are continuously upskilling to build capability on the team, from Growsafe certification to enable in-house weed control and site preparation to Vespex training for wasp control. The restoration of Ruapaka Wetland is also connected to another Ngāti Kuia-led initiative in the Project to establish a nearby native nursery with eco-sourced seeds from Ruapaka. These jobs are made possible through funding from Jobs for Nature.
More about whānau employment
Photos of the Ngāti Kuia field crew, Ngā Toki Kaiahuone: Melissa Banks
Ngāti Kuia has developed a staged restoration plan for 14 hectares of Ruapaka Wetland area, while working with experts for specialist advice and working alongside Project partners, including adjoining landowners. Efforts are well under way to eradicate invasive plant species, such as willows, old man’s beard, blackberry and tradescantia, and re-introduce native flora employing a mix of modern science and Matauranga Māori. The rejuvenation of the mauri of this significant wāhi tapu and wetland ecosystem is visible from SH6 as the land has transformed since early 2023 from invasive willows to mulch and native seedlings.
The restoration is being undertaken in three planting zones: wetland mix, riparian mix and enrichment mix. Each zone requires a different approach to site preparation to control weeds, while all zones are using a different mix of ecosourced seeds from Te Hoiere to ensure that genetic diversity is preserved and plants are best adapted to the local environment.
Overall, 64,400 plants are expected to go into the ground over a three-year period, with establishment and maintenance expected to take a number of years. In addition to restoring this site of significance, including the cultural, spiritual and ecological values, this project is also leading to other benefits such as establishing stock-proof fencing for adjacent farmers.
More about restoration mahi
Photos of Ruapaka Wetland before and during restoration show a weed-choked area, including willows and old man's beard, which have been removed in the first of three zones where new native plantings have taken place. Following community feedback in 2022, a mix of drilling in sensitive areas and careful aerial spraying using GPS technology were used to control willows. In February 2023, aerial spraying commenced and avoided areas of natural vegetation to protect natural regeneration of the area. Once the willows died off, the dead trees were mulched and used as a weed suppressant as the site was prepared for native planting.
Ngāti Kuia leads this project to restore this site of significance with its field crew, Ngā Toki Kai Ahuone, and contractors. Te Hoiere Project partners include adjoining landowners, Te Rūnanga a Rangitāne o Wairau, Marlborough District Council, Department of Conservation, Ministry for the Environment, Ministry for Primary Industries, NZ Landcare Trust, Forest & Bird, Waka Kotahi and Fonterra, which made a generous donation to the Ruapaka restoration. Marlborough Roads is advising on stormwater management, whether herbicide sprays are used in the area, and traffic control measures.
In addition to the ongoing support of the many Project partners listed above, various experts and agencies have been consulted to help with undertaking this restoration, including specialist advice. These include Kūmanu Environmental, FuturEcology, Fish and Game New Zealand, The Cawthron Institute, and Moore & Associates.