31 July 2023 at 2:40 pm
Wairewa Rūnanga and Orion Group gathered to celebrate a significant milestone yesterday with the ceremonial planting of the first native trees at Te Kaio farm.
It was a clear, crisp winter morning as the team from Orion Group joined whānau from Wairewa on the rugged farmland for a blessing led by Bishop Richard Wallace, Councillor Iaean Cranwell and Charisma Rangipunga.
Following karakia and speeches, the two groups joined to plant the first trees on the whenua, two totara seedlings and two kōwhai seedlings, before heading back to the farmhouse to share kai and a cuppa.
“We’ve embarked on a journey with Wairewa to return the kahukura to Te Kaio. It was a significant step on that journey to stand at Te Kaio today and join the whānau in planting the first of what will soon be many trees on this whenua,” says Orion Group Chief Executive Nigel Barbour, who planted one of the trees alongside Wairewa Rūnanga Chair Jaleesa Panirau.
“The blessing on Sunday was such an important step for us. It sets us all on the right path forward for this intergenerational kaupapa,” says Wairewa Orion Steering Group member Ana Gray.
In February, Wairewa Rūnanga, Te Kete o Wairewa (its legal entity) and Orion Group signed an agreement to recloak Te Kaio farm, a 280-hectare block of ex-farmland near Wairewa, Little River, belonging to the Rūnanga.
Yesterday’s planting ceremony marks the start of work to plant 50,000 trees in the first year of the long-term project.
Native species will be planted to restore the whenua, adding to the significant local efforts to return the Peninsula to its former forested state. Once the replanting is completed, both parties will enter the carbon farming market together and receive a share of the carbon credits issued via the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme.
On behalf of Orion, Nigel was gifted a pounamu taoka by the Rūnaka, which they blessed and gifted the name Matatoki, one of the three stars of Tautoru, or Orion’s Belt.
“It was really overwhelming, I didn’t expect it and I’m certainly incredibly grateful,” says Nigel.
“We’re looking forward to getting stuck into the mahi.”