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Māori land trust establishes nursery for planting natives along waterways

Māori land trust establishes nursery for planting natives along waterways

Māori land trust establishes nursery for planting natives along waterways

With a vision to protect their land for current and future generations who whakapapa to Rereahu iwi, Tiroa E and Te Hape B Trusts established Waiatara Native Nursery. To ensure the quality of the waterways on the land, the nursery eco-sources native seeds, germinating and maintaining them ready for riparian planting on the Trust’s four farms.

Tiroa Station, Wharekiri Station, Te Hape Station and Tiroa E and Te Hape B Limited Partnership, trading as Te Awa Rua are in Benneydale and Pureora, in the King Country. The farms are sheep and beef breeding and finishing units which collectively have approximately 8,000 ha of effective land running up to 130,000 stock units. The land also has around 4,000 ha of native bushland.

What makes these farms unique are the protected waterways travelling through them including Waimiha, Waipa, Ongarue, Okahukura and Mangaokewa which feed into the Mōkau, Whanganui and Waikato rivers.

Waiatara Native Nursery was established in 2021 at Te Hape Station. With 150 km of protected waterways across the farms, the decade-long goal is to riparian plant along them. Nursery Supervisor, Hiki Nathan, shares the process of raising the seedlings ready for planting.

“The nursery helps acclimatise the seedlings to meet the cold conditions on the farms which include plenty of frosts. We pick the seeds from the native bush we have on the four farms and bring them to the nursery to germinate and raise them. It takes up to 18 months for the seedlings to be ready for planting.”

Preparing the land is important in readiness for planting and includes fencing the waterway from stock. The nursery team eradicates pests such as rabbits and possums using bait stations and sprays for weeds purchased from the PGG Wrightson Te Kuiti store managed by Carlos Cressy. Once these tasks are completed, the area is ready for planting.

“Last year, we planted on Tiroa, Te Hape and Wharekiri Stations covering 11 km. The seedlings were collected from the farms, while a portion was donated by PGG Wrightson and Nufarm. We are planting natives such as harakeke, manuka, tāwhiri karo, karamu and tī kōuka,” says Hiki.

Securing $1.25 million in funding for the fencing and planting, the first round of funding saw 18 km of waterways riparian planted. From now until the completion of the project, the nursery team aims to plant 22 ha of waterways per year.

If any of the native seedlings become surplus to the nursery’s requirements, they will be sold to environmental projects and other farms. 

Hiki points out that along with protecting the whenua for future generations, Tiroa E and Te Hape B Trusts are always looking to provide opportunities for beneficiaries to get involved.

“We want our beneficiaries to have somewhere to come and feel a sense of connection to the land. This includes giving those who whakapapa to this whenua work on the farms as opportunities arise, including in our kaimahi team.”

A Rereahu member, Tiroa Station Farm Manager Wayne Fraser feels a deep connection to the whenua.

“My association with the Trusts has been a long one, including time as a Trustee,” says Wayne. “I whakapapa to Rereahu through my mother’s side. I came here as a young fellow, then moved away. The opportunity to come back and do what I love – farming – on my own whenua was important to me. The Trust allows for tamariki to come and work on the farms.”

Wayne has managed Tiroa Station for the past 14 years. The farm has 3,150 ha effective land with 36,000 stock units; 70/30 sheep to cattle.

“This is mainly a breeding block with predominantly Angus cows and Romney sheep. With the challenging winter conditions, with cold weather and exposed paddocks, the grass growth takes a bit to get the animals to carcass weight. That means our main selling period is the first five months of the year,” says Wayne.

The farm aims to sell around 16,000 lambs and move around 200 steers and 300 bulls to Wharekiri Station for finishing, moving down to their wintering numbers by May.

Wayne works alongside PGG Wrightson Technical Field Representative Russell Smith to implement the farm’s cropping and grassing programme, which has delivered pleasing results and improved efficiencies on-farm. Russell's assistance has included offering recommendations on how to manage the light ash soils and browntop reversion that limits pasture growth.

“With Russell’s help, we’ve implemented a targeted approach to our cropping programme of Winter Star annual ryegrass, followed by a winter crop, and then a perennial ryegrass and clover mix. This rotation is complemented by a spray and fertiliser programme to ensure the longevity of the new grasses.

“Russell is a great sounding board. I might have lots of ideas, but having a yarn with him helps me see what will work. The farm needs to be a viable income source for whānau. Russell gives us options, so when we choose a crop, it matches our stock class and growing conditions, so we make a financial return,” says Wayne.