Celebrating conservation champions in our community

This year’s Manawatū Conservation Awards celebrate an eclectic mix of conservation heroes who have been quietly laboring away to achieve great things in their communities.

Conservation Awards are presented annually to celebrate those who work tirelessly to protect and cherish the natural heritage of the wider Manawatū region. It’s also an opportunity to raise the profile of what is being done in the community and to provide inspiration to others.

Three awards are being presented this year – one to an organisation, one to an individual, and one to an iwi/hapū group.

This year, a new award to recognise the contribution of local iwi/hapu groups is being introduced. The inaugural Kaitiakitanga Conservation Award goes to the Manaaki Taha Moana Project. This is a research project funded by the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment, which aims to enhance coastal ecosystems for iwi and hapū by investigating ecological decline issues for freshwater into the marine and related biodiversity. The case study covers the coastal ecosystems between Hōkio and Waitohu Streams in Horowhenua and northern Kāpiti.

Dr Huhana Smith, with Aroha Spinks and Moira Poutama, leads the project team are actively engaged in Kaupapa Māori and action research for six hands-on rehabilitation projects within the case study.

The work that Manaaki Taha Moana does helps ensure the diversity of our natural heritage is maintained and restored, and tangata whenua exercise their cultural relationship with their natural and historic heritage.

The work required is not always easy to implement, at times it is challenging and fraught, but despite this the team remain focused and dedicated.

All three of the MTM researchers credit support from their whānau, hapū and iwi for their success:

Huhana Smith says “This award means a lot to us. We were delighted with the news from Department of Conservation. All our MTM collaborators work really hard on this project, including our iwi team for the Tauranga Moana case study. For this Horowhenua Māori MTM team, it’s really great to receive some recognition for all the hard work required to be truly collaborative, inclusive and respectful of different knowledge systems.”

Moira Poutama, who had worked for Te Iwi o Ngāti Tukorehe Trust for the last 10 years before being ‘seconded’ to MTM, says she was proud to be able to effect change in positive ways but it would not have been possible without hapū, whānau and iwi support.

Aroha Spinks was a fulltime mum. In 2009, she decided to study the Certificate in Iwi Environmental Management/Tiakina Te Ao at the local marae Tukorehe in Kuku.  “Huhana was the monthly tutor and saw my enthusiasm and dedication to the cause. She approached me and asked if I would be interested in a part-time role working for our Iwi Environmental Resource Unit (Taiao Raukawa) in the new project Manaaki Taha Moana the following year.  That was a prefect move for me as I still had the opportunity to spend precious time with my growing tamariki (Awhina and now also Kiinui),” she explains. Aroha says she feels privileged and excited to receive the award.  “It is wonderful for our team to be recognised and acknowledged for all our hard work and long hours.  However, I also feel humble as we receive this award on behalf of our hapū and iwi, as well as the supporting organisations and community members who have also put a lot thought, guidance, sweat, money and many hours into our case studies.”

The award was presented to the Manaaki Taha Moana group at Raukawa Marae on Wednesday 11 September, with kaumatua, whānau and kaitiaki from Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga and other iwi affiliates.


Background information

Manaaki Taha Moana project:  The Manaaki Taha Moana project grew out of another research project on terrestrial ecosystems, also funded by the Ministry from 2004-2009, where Dr Huhana Smith worked on the Te Hākari Dune wetland restoration experience and use of mātauranga Māori or local knowledge of place, to help reinstate health to the coastal wetland, and to hapū of Ngāti Tukorehe.

In late 2008 Huhana was part of the application development team for the new MTM proposal, who worked with Taiao Raukawa Environmental Resource Unit, Massey University and intended collaborators, Cawthron Institute and Waka Digital. In 2010, Taiao Raukawa then employed MTM researchers, Aroha Spinks and Moira Poutama. The team collaborates with iwi and hapū from each project area, with Massey University, Cawthron Institute and Waka Digital.

Since 2011, the MTM research team has been working with senior Landscape Architecture students from School of Architecture and Design, Victoria University, Wellington. The project brings together Māori knowledge and ideologies, science, hydro-ecological, engineering, coastal processes/hazards, climate change, ecology and ecological economics, and even archaeo-seismological understandings of the coastline.

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