Most people are aware of long-established and respected disability service provider Hōhepa, which caters for special needs children and adults with an intellectual disability. A Charitable Trust, Hōhepa Hawke’s Bay has centres at Clive and Poriati.

Hōhepa’s organic farm produce, including milk and award-winning cheese from its dairy enterprise, is legendary and much sought after.

Perhaps less well known, is the amazing contribution that Hōhepa Hawke’s Bay makes in environmental restoration projects across the region, projects which aim to enrich biodiversity and improve habitat for endangered species. 

In 2019, Hōhepa successfully applied to the One Billion Trees Project, managed by the Ministry for Primary Industries. Obtaining this funding enabled Hōhepa to extend its native plant nursery at Clive and expand its wetland restoration projects, creating more jobs for people with disabilities.

The grant has resulted in great benefits for the land as well as providing tangible benefits for the Hōhepa community. Its Business and Partnerships manager, Neil Kirton, said that job opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities are few and far between, explaining that, “This is valuable work. It’s real work that is appreciated by both the community and the people doing the mahi.”

Since 2017, the Hōhepa team has eco-sourced and collected a wide variety of seeds from remnant native forested areas close to the estuary. Seeds are germinated and potted-up in the Trees 4 Hawke’s Bay nursery, lovingly cared for by the people supported at Hōhepa and then planted out by Hōhepa environmental service workers. 

Kathryn Lyons, Environmental Service Assistant

These, now experienced, teams have planted around 30,000 natives along the Taipo Stream and in a newly developed Hōhepa wetland in Poraiti. They have also been busy planting along the Maraetōtara Stream and at Opouahi Station near Tutira. 

In July this year, there was more good news. As part of the latest Department of Conservation-managed  ‘Jobs for Nature’ nationwide grant allocation, Hōhepa received $1 million to expand and protect the wetland habitat that services Te Whanganui-A-Orotu (Ahuriri Estuary) and establish riparian protection zones along the Taipo Stream and the associated waterways. The grant covers three years and will provide jobs for some sixteen people.

The funding is something that Neil told me they were delighted to get. “This will help support and develop our ‘Trees 4 Hawke’s Bay’ programme and our native plant nursery,” he says. “It will also enable us to gain real momentum on stopping sediment at its various sources in these areas.”

The Jobs for Nature Programme is a $1.3 billion Government initiative which manages funding across multiple government agencies to benefit the environment, people and the regions, as part of the Covid-19 recovery package. 

As a result, some 11,000 men and women can be employed in important conservation work and the programme is planned to run for four years.

The Hawke’s Bay Regional Council (HBRC) was also awarded $1 million. This will enable the council to protect high biodiversity value remnant bush sites, through deer fencing and pest plant and animal control throughout Hawke’s Bay.

The Minister of Conservation, Hon Kiritapu Allan says about the programme, “The work we are funding includes everything from pest control and restoration planting to plant propagation, skill building and education initiatives across Aotearoa New Zealand.” 

“It is also about meaningful work, training, and education, a wider understanding of how to make a difference in our own backyard and a helping hand towards a more sustainable environmental and economic future.”

The Jobs for Nature local funding is seen as very valuable by DOC Hawke’s Bay’s Senior Ranger, Chris Wootton. “Not only is this creating jobs,” Chris says, “but also, the focus is on our biodiversity hotspots and local conservation gems, such as the estuary. This national funding initiative is a huge opportunity for regions such as Hawke’s Bay and we’re eager to maximise the benefits these projects will bring to our local environment.”

Biodiversity Hawke’s Bay isn’t directly involved in Hōhepa’s project, but is available to offer support where needed or wanted – things like project management, assisting with budgets, staff recruitment, connecting with other projects in the area, etc.

Its Community Facilitator, Dr Belinda Sleight was very enthusiastic. “This project is part of a focus on protecting and enhancing Te Whanganui-a-Orotu, an area of incredible biodiversity value and cultural significance”, she says. 

“Biodiversity Hawke’s Bay is keen to see connections made across the various projects relating to Ahuriri, including the Napier City Council-led Regional Park initiative. By working together, the projects will maximise the conservation impact, whilst also leading to other opportunities to improve the environment in Napier City.”

Philanthropist, Sir Lew Harris, and Marjorie Allan, MBE, who founded Hōhepa in 1957, have left a remarkable legacy. Government funding for its environmental work is a well-deserved reward and recognition for Hōhepa’s philosophy, trustees and staff, past and present.  

For sixty-four years, they have provided dedicated support for children and adults, through residential care and day services programmes, helping their service-users to lead lives filled with meaning and purpose.

Now the wider community is benefiting from their helping hands.

Find out more about Hōhepa at:- https://www.hohepahawkesbay.com

You can watch a video about the work carried out by Hōhepa Hawke’s Bay with funding from the Billion Trees Fund at: https://youtu.be/DLB_CiYjp38

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