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DOC Land With Unique Moriori Tree Carvings

DOC Acquires Land With Unique Moriori Tree Carvings


Conservation Minister Sandra Lee has announced the purchase by the crown of a significant ecological and cultural site on the Chatham Islands, the 1198 hectare Taia property.

Located on the eastern peninsula of the main Chatham Island, the 12km long stretch of land contains historic Moriori tree carvings (dendroglyphs) on kopi trees in the dune belt. The coastal area was once used for burials.

Ms Lee said the property would be managed as an historic reserve by the Hokotehi Moriori Trust, in partnership with the Department of Conservation. It had been used as a farm run-off.

Hokotehi Moriori Trust chairperson Alfred Preece described the purchase as a "win-win" for all concerned.

"It is particularly a win-win for the landowners because they have been trying to sell the property for a number of years, " he said. "It's not a viable farming unit, but low lying land and only farmable when the lagoon is open."

Mr Preece said the property was "very significant" to Moriori as one of the last remaining holdings with Moriori carvings still intact.

He said the purchase would ensure the protection of conservation values for future generations. "It wouldn’t have been very long before conservation values were destroyed by livestock. Cattle were having a hell of an effect on sand dunes and neighbouring reserves."

The property sits between the Te Whanga lagoon and the sea, supporting complex wetland and coastal ecosystems. These range from salt turf herb fields to brackish ponds and wetland margins, as well as areas of elevated peaty country and a few areas of well-developed grazing lands.

Akeake and kopi forest is present behind the dune belt on Hanson Bay and more extensively around several dune lakes. During summer, the lagoon fringes, freshwater lakes and sand spit areas support wading bird species from the northern hemisphere—including bar-tailed godwit, knot, golden plover and turnstone.

The area also contains both rare and endangered plant species including the sand daphne, native iris, hokataka and Chatham Island geranium.

The property was bought from local farmers Ted and Ann Hough through an application initiated by Moriori. The Nga Whenua Rahui committee facilitated the purchase which was financed by the Nature Heritage Fund.

Ms Lee said a management plan would be required for the reserve and this plan would recognise Moriori as kaitiaki, although legal title would remain with the crown. Buildings on the land would be vested in the Hokotehi Moriori Trust for its use.

She said DOC would offer to help the Trust with the ecological management of the plants and wildlife on the property.

DOC's Chatham Islands Area Manager Adrian Couchman said the department was pleased to see the land protected and it was looking forward to working in partnership with the Hokotehi Moriori Trust, to manage the property.

"The removal of stock off the property will give added protection to the Barkers' Kaingaroa conservation covenant as well as protecting the vegetation on the Taia property," he said. "Some of the last remaining dendroglyphs are located there, and it will be good to see them under protection."

Mr Couchman said one of the first priorities would be the replacement of the three-kilometre long boundary fence between the Taia property and the adjacent private farmland.

Mr Preece said the land management partnership between DOC and Moriori was a new and "exciting" initiative for the Chatham Islands. "I can see only good things coming from it because we share a similar kaupapa as far as conservation is concerned. I look forward to sitting down with the department and working towards drafting a good management plan for Taia.

"We are both keen to sit down and work towards a common goal. We need to see what value we can add to the property and what we can jointly do to increase the public awareness of our people. These are very exciting times."

Mr Preece said he encouraged eco-sustainable cultural or heritage tourism on his own land, and the Trust would be looking at this as a longer-term option for the Taia property, although access was difficult. He said the immediate priorities were removal of stock and boundary fencing.

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