Iwi welcomes freshwater and environment package in wake of Covid-19

A little bit of hope at the end of a very long, dark tunnel.

That’s how a recent government funding boost for freshwater and environmental projects has been described by Eastern Bay of Plenty iwi Ngāti Awa who are desperate to lift their whānau out of unemployment post-Covid-19.

The government is investing $162 million towards 23 projects through its Jobs for Nature programme, which is expected to deliver more than 2000 jobs.

Ngāti Awa has received $2.5 million from the Jobs for Nature Programme, and a further $2.4 million from the Provincial Growth Fund to eradicate possums from a 4700 hectare area covering Whakatāne and Ōhōpe.

The project is expected to create 10 jobs immediately, and a further 30 within a year.

Ngāti Awa spokesperson Michal Akurangi said the funding couldn’t have come at a better time.

“This has provided a little bit of hope at the end of a very long, dark tunnel for us,” she said.

“This is an opportunity to say, hey look, we’ve got some jobs available, employment opportunities, and also opportunities to re-connect with the whenua.”

The project details and recruitment process is still being worked through, but Akurangi said the iwi would be hiring people who didn’t necessarily have skills in pest management.

She said the people of Ngāti Awa were kaitiaki or guardians over their environment, and it was only right that this project was being led by them.

“The secondary or added benefit is to connect our whānau of Ngāti Awa to their whenua and really embrace their role as kaitiaki and this is an opportunity to do this as part of an employed role.”

The difference funding makes

Gisborne hapū Ngā Ariki Kaiputahi has always had big ideas to improve the wellbeing of the catchment areas in Mangatu and Waiapu, but for a long time haven’t had the funding to do the mahi.

That all changed in May, when the hapū received $200,000 from the Provincial Growth Fund to run an eight-week recovery project pilot.

Spokesperson Matawhero Lloyd said it not only brought life back to the wetland areas, but it also created jobs.

“We were able to secure 8000 trees, and we’ve planted between 6000-7000 of those,” he said.

“Ten jobs were created and then there were support jobs created as well which allowed others in jobs which were beginning to be affected like administrators to assist.

“We did have those who have been involved in restoration projects on the land, but our other teams was mixed. We had some teachers, construction workers and shearers.”

Thanks to a recent $4.8 million funding boost from the government, that work will now continue.

The funding will go towards further riparian planting, fencing construction and repair, and predator control in areas right across the Tairawhiti, creating an estimated 70 jobs over 12 months.

“It’s going to be very helpful as we move forward, there’s so much potential in the regions for restoration work and planting,” he said.

“This is just one indicator of how quickly we were able to get this moving, the benefits that it’s having on the land and it’s just given our team a whole new lease of enthusiasms and excitement which is really cool.”

The government says all 23 projects either have the support of iwi or will have iwi involvement.