Wairarapa Moana Wetlands has been a taonga (treasure) for hundreds of years, acknowledged by local Māori as a place of tremendous cultural and spiritual value.
The once-abundant waters teemed with life. Today, a fragile and unique ecology remains. Despite changes to the natural environment, it’s still a hot spot and migratory pathway for many important and threatened species.
Last year the Government announced a $3.5 million boost of Jobs for Nature funding, which is scaling up restoration efforts at the wetlands.
“It’s about providing employment for the local community, it’s about regeneration of our moana wetlands and it’s also about restoring the mana to the local Māori, hapū, iwi community”, says Greater Wellington’s Project Lead Kereana Sims.
The once life-sustaining ecosystem rich with tuna (eels) and kākahi (freshwater mussel) is now heavily polluted and suffering from erosion, sedimentation and high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous.
Since 2008 the Wairarapa community, mana whenua and central and local government have been working together to restore it.
The funding will see 30 jobs created over the next five years to rehabilitate the area, through indigenous planting and pest control across 1000 hectares of wetlands and surrounding land.
“This project is helping to restore the mauri of Wairarapa Moana and protect Te Mana o Te Wai; the life supporting capacity of this wai māori. Ministry for the Environment are pleased we could support this mahi through the Jobs for Nature programme,” says Ministry for the Environment’s Martin Workman.
Te Mana o Te Wai, the guiding principle of the recently released Essential Freshwater reforms, means protecting the life-supporting capacity of freshwater. It gives priority to the health of freshwater, then the needs of people and then commercial uses.
Department of Conservation Director-General Lou Sanson says the Jobs for Nature funding for restoration work at Wairarapa Moana underlines the ecological, cultural, and recreational importance and potential of this area.
“Wairarapa Moana supports more than 50 native freshwater and birds species, in addition to the areas international significance for migratory bird species as recognised by the recent Ramsar protection status. Native taonga include brown mudfish, tadpole shrimp, Tuna, matuku/Australasian bittern and kuaka/bar-tailed godwit to name a few.
“Work under the Jobs for Nature funding will help improve the wetland habitat, increasing the capacity of the wetland to buffer against climate change and all catchment-wide impacts on the health and future of the moana.”
Greater Wellington Wairarapa Committee Chair, Councillor Adrienne Staples says, “we’re contributing approximately $1 million, and Department of Conservation are adding $450 thousand on top of the Ministry of the Environment’s $3.5 million investment over the next five years.
“It’s expected that we’ll see significant support going into indigenous plants and animal protection, improved visitor facilities, education and community group support – all of which will create job opportunities in the area.”
The Wairarapa Moana Wetlands Project is a collaboration between Greater Wellington Regional Council, the Department of Conservation, South Wairarapa District Council, Kahungunu ki Wairarapa, and Rangitāne o Wairarapa.
The Wairarapa Moana Wetland was designated as a Wetland of International Importance in August 2020 and is one of only seven wetlands in New Zealand to be recognised as such. The convention’s broad aim is to conserve natural resources.
This article was first published on the Landscape Architecture Aotearoa website, which is published by the New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects (NZILA).