From left, Tania Basher, Alice Hughes, and Jonathan Dick; Paul Keats, Karen Skipper-Hawaikirangi and Rewa Mason. Photo Supplied
A partnership between EIT’s School of Primary Industries and a hapū-led environmental company, Te Wai Mauri Trust, is starting to bear fruit with trust staff attending classes, and plants grown at its newly established nursery being used for a project on the Hawke’s Bay campus .
Te Wai Mauri Trust was established by Ngāti Pārau and based out of Waiōhiki Marae, which is near EIT’s Hawke’s Bay Campus in Taradale.
It has established a nursery adjacent to Waiōhiki Marae growing native seedlings, with the goal being for members of the Te Wai Mauri Trust, known as the Kaitiaki Rangers, to plant locally sourced and grown seedlings from their own nursery to help restore the taiao (environment ).
The nursery was set up after Rewa Mason, Alice Hughes and Karen Skipper-Hawaikirangi graduated with a New Zealand Certificate in Sustainable Primary Production [Level 4] from EIT last year.
Funding from the One Billion Trees Fund enabled EIT to purchase the nursery’s first 450 native seedlings, which were sown in November, and planted in a gully bordering the Ōtātara Pa site above the Ōtātara Outdoor Learning Center (OOLC) by students and staff earlier this month .
Chad Tareha, chairman of Ngāti Pārau, the mana whenua hapū for Ōtātara, led a karakia, followed by a ceremonial planting of a young tītoki tree at the entrance to the gully.
Tutor Brian McLay, for EIT’s School of Primary Industries, says the relationship is special as the plants are locally grown for EIT’s land, which is closely connected to the Ōtātara Pa and area. The key for him is the connection between education and sustainability, and providing a mutually beneficial opportunity that serves them both.
The restoration of the gully has taken place over a number of years. It was originally overgrown with blackberry and weeds but EIT staff and students have managed to control the weeds, and with the help of the Kaitiaki rangers and other groups have planted thousands of native plants. The area is open to schools as a learning environment along with the OOLC.
Karen says studying at EIT has provided a “really good foundation” to then move into native plant production.
“The theory in practice that we were able to integrate into our learning through the practical work we did at a local nursery and by visiting bush areas has been so valuable.”
She is particularly grateful for the relationship they’ve built with EIT along the way, and the support the institution has provided.
For Rewa, being able to develop a relationship with EIT has been most rewarding.
“Selling our first lot of plants to EIT was something that felt really good. I think just getting out there to help plant is important but giving back to our own whenua makes me feel good and connected, knowing our babies are going to be up there looked after and close by.”
Alice says she found the New Zealand Certificate in Sustainable Primary Production [Level 4] “beneficial” in learning different techniques, monitoring plants and finding ways to be more sustainable in their everyday practice.
Through their studies, they connected with Horticulture Learning Facilitator Tania Basher, who has been instrumental in the development of the nursery.
They also have Kaitiaki Rangers studying a NZ Certificate in Primary Industry Skills (Agriculture/Ecology/Horticulture) [Level 2] and a NZ Certificate in Primary Industry Operational Skills [Level 3].
“We partnered to design and deliver a training program including outdoor first aid, quad bike licenses, chainsaw and scrub bar use, chemical-handling and nursery production skills,” Rewa says.
Paul Keats, the Assistant Head of School, Primary Industries, says it has been great to establish a working relationship with Te Wai Mauri.
“I think it’s great to see the nursery up and running with EIT involvement both in the establishment and ongoing success.”
He says the success of the three graduates is an example of the real-world outcomes that can develop from a qualification.
“The nursery is run under Mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) principles and EIT staff are keen to learn and incorporate those principles in our teaching.”