Waiohiki nursery, Karen Hawaikirangi (l) and Rewa Mason.

Although there has been so much Cyclone Gabrielle devastation at Waiohiki settlement, one positive story is Te Wai Mauri native plant nursery, which is literally thriving with a large stock of healthy plants.

Nursery Team Leader Rewa Mason says there was some silt and flood damage to parts of the nursery, based behind Waiohiki  Marae, but with help from whānau, and continued water deliveries from Hastings and Napier Fire Department, some 85,000 natives are ready for planting. These are grown from locally sourced seed and range from Kanuka and Ake Ake to Tītoki, Makamako, Karamū Tī kouka/Cabbage Tree, Toetoe and Kahikatea, and more.

“So many whānau have been impacted by the floods,” says Rewa. “ So we are trying to keep moving forward, looking after the nursery, seed collecting and learning more about the biodiversity of plants.” 

Alice Hughes

Rewa and her team members Karen Hawaikirangi and Alice Hughes have level four horticultural qualifications from EIT. They developed the nursery while studying and are now running it along Te Ao Maori principles and incorporating tikanga practices. The team say a karakia every morning before working with the plants and a different one  before collecting seeds – mainly from remnant native blocks and “secret locations”. They propagate  the seeds – “their babies” – in a shaded tunnel house and aim to learn the whakapapa of each species they are collecting.

Rewa says part of the kaupapa of the nursery is to develop an educational resource and have school groups regularly visit  – some have been already. “We want to teach kids why  we should plant natives and take them through the basics of growing things.”

The nursery are working on being ‘Plant Pass’ certified, a voluntary plant producers scheme focused on bio-security and “being free of things like myrtle-rust and kauri dieback”.  They are also keen to learn rongoā principles and the medicinal value of plants, as well as working with the phases of the moon for planting and seed collecting.

The nursery is part  of Te Wai Mauri Limited which was first set up as a Charitable Trust  in 2015, and then incorporated in 2020, with the aim of fostering the aspirations of local Ngāti Pārau whānau ( a hapū of Ngāti Kahungunu and mana whenua in the Ahuriri, Napier area). 

The hapū had seen the deterioration of their whenua and awa and began a kaupapa to restore their taiao/ natural environment. Out of that they established a successful ‘Kaitiaki Ranger Programme’ with qualified kaitiaki rangers trained at the Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT) and the nursery compliments the work of the Kaitiaki Rangers.

Te Wai Mauri nursery officially opened last November and  already has a multi-year contract with Omarunui Landfill development and is supplying plants for the Des Ratima Memorial at Whakatu. It has also supplied plants to Pettigrew Arena and Waka Kotahi.

They encourage anyone who is keen to buy plants, re-plant post the Cyclone, or are interested in the nursery to email nursery@tewaimauri.nz or go to the website https://tewaimauri.nz

Public interest journalism funded by New Zealand on Air.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *