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Council, DOC And Iwi Work Together For Maitai/Mahitahi Valley

The launch of Project Mahitahi this week signals the start of a collaborative effort to restore the ecosystem of the Maitai/Mahitahi Valley.

Representatives from the Kotahitanga mō te Taiao Alliance – Ngati Koata, Nelson City Council, the Department of Conservation and Iwi Trust Boards including Ngati Rarua and Te Atiawa, as well as the Ministry for Primary Industries, attended the launch for the project which has the following vision:

The Mauri (or life force) of the Mahitahi is restored- ki uta ki tai – so that native plants and wildlife can thrive within a functioning and connected eco-system and people and communities are inspired to nurture and value the Mahitahi as a taonga for past, present, and future generations.

Nelson City Council has previously worked on the restoration of water quality and stream health through its community-focussed Project Maitai/Mahitahi and Healthy Streams work programmes.

Project Mahitahi builds on work that landowners in the catchment and the wider community have been doing for many years, with funding of $1.7 million from Ministry for the Environment to implement an ecological restoration plan for the Maitai catchment, and $2 million from the Department of Conservation Kaimahi for Nature fund – the project is the first in the country to be granted this funding through a regional alliance involving councils and iwi.

Over five years Project Mahitahi will provide local employment opportunities as part of the COVID-19 recovery, plant 125,000 trees including Taonga species, restore 1.3 hectares of wetlands and carry out pest plant control in the Maitai/Mahitahi and Brook Waimarama catchment.
The ecological restoration plan for the project has the following goals:

  • enhanced water quality
  • a reduction in weeds that will help to reduce the spread of invasive plant species across a wider area
  • habitat improvement
  • the preservation of indigenous tree and plant species, some of which are found only in the Mahitahi (Maitai) Valley
  • the development of a food corridor that will support the movement of native bird species across the Nelson region
  • benefits for taonga species such as kōura/freshwater crayfish, tuna/eels, inanga/native fish

The planting work will be delivered through a combination of contractor planting as well as planting projects in collaboration with community partners including the Cawthron Institute and Friends of the Maitai. Having the community so heavily involved and invested in this restoration of the Mahitahi is precisely what the vision of the project alludes to.

Nelson Mayor, Rachel Reese, says that Nelson is extremely fortunate to have received this level of funding to restore our river valley ecosystem which is a critical habitat for native species and birdlife some of which are endemic to the Maitai/Mahitahi.

“To be able to create employment as well is a real boost for our region in such a time of financial uncertainty. I hope the exciting work of this project will entice and also keep talented and energetic people in our city, who will share our passion for restoring the Mahitahi for generations to come.”

Ngāti Koata Trust General Manager and Project Mahitahi Co-chair Justin Carter said that the Mahitahi catchment is of central importance to mana whenua iwi identity.

“Historically, the natural resources were plentiful with tūpuna travelling from around the rohe to the Mahitahi for mahinga kai, rongoa, hunting, fishing, weaving and collecting building materials.

“Projects such as this align well to our values and purpose, and provide the framework for Kotahitanga mo te Taiao alliance partners to not only progress restoration work alongside the community but also provide work opportunities for those most impacted by the pandemic. This project is a great example of iwi and crown alliance partners collectively working in partnership at all levels.

“It is about us being good ancestors and fulfilling our collective kaitiaki role for the generations to come. This project supports us to do that."

“Toitū te marae a Tāne, Toitū te marae a Tangaroa, Toitū te Tangata.

If we care for the resources of the land and the sea, we, the people, will survive,” adds Justin Carter.

Martin Rodd, Kotahitanga mō te Taiao Alliance Co-Chair says “Project Mahitahi offers us a stunning opportunity to achieve remarkable restoration outcomes in a location so close to the central city. Council, Iwi and DoC collaborating in this way, building upon the existing work will contribute to great outcomes for our ecosystems and for the people living here, as well as for those who work on the project.”

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