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Minister launches wetlands revival

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage and Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa environmental officer Ra Smith about to plant kahikatea at Pou Aruhe. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage was in Wairarapa on Friday to kickstart a wetland restoration project in South Wairarapa, before heading north to Pukaha Mt Bruce.

Sage spent the morning with Department of Conservation staff, iwi, and volunteers Dougal and Denise McKenzie planting native species such as kahikatea, totara, maire, kanuka, ti kouka, and manuka at Pou Aruhe, on the eastern edge of Lake Onoke.

The Pou Aruhe restoration project will connect 18 hectares of wet pasture, back with the adjacent Lake Onoke and the streams that originally fed it.

The work is part of the wider Wairarapa Moana Wetlands project to enhance Lake Wairarapa and Lake Onoke and their adjacent wetlands, involving Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa, Rangitane o Wairarapa, DOC, Greater Wellington Regional Council and South Wairarapa District Council.

The $400,000 project is part of the Government’s Freshwater Improvement Fund and is supported by the Ministry for the Environment, DOC and the regional council.

“This planting is an important part of treaty settlement to hand back the bed of Wairarapa moana to Rangitane and Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa, and ensuring the catchment
is in good health.”

Sage was full of praise for the work being carried out at Pukaha.

She said the way people start connecting with conservation was “being out in nature, enjoying experiences”

She gave the example of Pukaha staff member Jess Slemy.

“For me, she is a good example. She came out from France and became fascinated with kaka and kea, came out here [Pukaha] and now she lives here.

“Pukaha is unlike anything else in New Zealand. We can restore our native species.”

She cited the success of the kokako breeding programme which has seen numbers increased from a handful to 80 birds.

“Here we can learn about weta, kiwi, whio, kaka, kakariki, and understand the significance of species,” Sage said.

And the work was not confined to bird species.

“Not many people know that whitebait, if you let them live, end up as giant kokopu bigger than your hand.”

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