(Story courtesy of the Whanganui Chronicle)
A new iwi-led eco sanctuary project has gained the support from Whanganui’s Forest & Bird branch with a hearty donation of $5000.
Pokaka Eco sanctuary Project sponsor and manager Steve Hirini said they are very overwhelmed by the ongoing support they are receiving from key partners like Forest & Bird.
“Along with the donations of pūtea, we have also been receiving an unbelievable amount of help and advice from existing sanctuaries like Bushy Park, Zealandia, I think everyone is excited about the potential of Pōkākā.”
The eco sanctuary is situated within the Erua Conservation Area and the wider Waimarino region at the base of Tongariro National Park.
It will be the first predator-proof, iwi-led eco sanctuary in New Zealand.
The Ngāti Uenuku project will involve three managed areas including a 200-hectare fully fences, pest-free inner sanctuary including a visitor centre, cafe and gift store and a tree-line skywalk in the centre.
It will also include a 2500-hectare community-led managed halo with pest management systems and eco-tourism related products such as guided cultural walks.
In the outer layer of the eco sanctuary, it will involve management over pest species to support native habitat rejuvenation.
Ngāti Uenuku hope the project will embrace Tikanga Maori, provide a reason to stay an extra day in Ruapehu, create jobs and be the centre of excellence for matauranga Maori inspired education.
A nursery will also be established to provide native plants for both the eco sanctuary and for land in the wider area.
Alongside environmental benefits, iwi hopes to protect, restore and champion the natural environment, culture and historic heritage as well as support partnerships between Maori tourism enterprise, iwi, hapu, Tangata Whenua and government.
The purpose of creating this project comes as the Crown returns the Erua Conservation Area to the three tribes of Uenuku, Tama ana and Tamahaki.
Forest & Bird’s Keith Beautrais said the donation came from a bequest which they were very grateful for.
He said the forest near the base of the mountain was heavily logged a few years ago but they were able to save a small portion of it with kiwi still being present.
“It’s a good thing for an Iwi-led conservation project, we’re really on board with it.
“It’s the spirit of learning about Kaitiakitanga, the traditional practices of sustainability weaving them into the ways we’re working these days, the river is a great example of iwi leadership and the new relationship with nature.”
Hirini said that without donations and support, moving the project forward to the next case of developing a design and business cause would not be possible.
“This is an important stage because it’s something that is going to help us decide as an Iwi if we want to commit to an eco sanctuary long term because the reality is, it’s forever.
“Being able to lead such a legacy project for Uenuku uri in such a unique location combined with economic development potential it can help bring to the wider Ruapehu community, we can wait to see the final report.”
The cheque was presented to Pokaka Eco sanctuary Project sponsor and manager Steve Hirini, Paora Haitana and Chris McKenzie at Bushy Park Sanctuary on December 5 by Forest & Bird chairwoman Esther Williams and member Keith Beautrais.


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