The first of 26,000 eco-sourced native trees find their home at Amberfield
The first of 26,000 native saplings have been delivered to site for planting at Amberfield after developer Weston Lea Ltd placed an order through six local nurseries late last year.
The saplings will be planted along the river margins of the site as the first stage of protecting and enhancing the natural areas within, and adjacent to, the development.
One of the nurseries is run by the Ngati Hauā Mahi Trust, who were also engaged to undertake the planting itself.
Planting began with a karakia, which Ngāti Hauā Mahi Trust used to ensure respect of the land, the people and their Tupuna Awa Waikato. The ceremony celebrated spirituality and faith, reconnecting the iwi culturally and spiritually to the land and the river, as Waikato Tainui Māori have a rich history founded on strength, unity, faith and service to the Kingitanga that was founded in the 19th century.
Keri Thompson from the Ngāti Hauā Mahi Trust says, “The Karakia whakawaatea used on the day was specific to clearing the spiritual space, recognition of the historical significance and traditional work that occurred, as well as blessing the people and work so that we could plant these beautiful natives.”
All of the trees have been eco-sourced from the gullies and areas close to the planting site. Eco-sourcing strengthens the whakapapa of the rakau in the Ngāti Hauā rohe and is a priority for the Trust as it ensures the native species continue to thrive as rongoā plants. The native trees will also help enhance the habitat for the native long-tailed bat (pekapeka) population which is also important to the whānau of Ngāti Hauā.
Weston Lea Ltd has worked carefully and closely with the Tangata Whenua Working Group and environmental stakeholders to create a sustainable and positive ecological solution, ultimately aiming to provide a buffer to protect and enhance the habitat of the pekapeka.
Andrew Blayney, Ecologist from Boffa Miskell, says: “This planting is one of the first steps in the Amberfield development to significantly increase the habitats available to our native species in the Hamilton City area. Over 15% of the development area will be solely dedicated to native restoration plantings and creating a habitat for native fauna. This is significant, because even small increases in indigenous vegetation cover will contribute to local biodiversity and have city-wide positive impacts.”
Steve Bond, General Manager of Weston Lea Ltd says: “From the outset it’s been a priority for us to engage with local iwi. Through this process we have learned a great deal about the spirituality and connection iwi have to the river and the land. The karakia prior to the planting was a beautiful and humbling moment - and a fitting way to commence our journey to create in Amberfield a place that embraces the river and nurtures the environment.”
This activity follows a landmark agreement (kawenata) signed in February 2019 to create a partnership between Weston Lea Ltd and the Tangata Whenua Working Group. The working group is made up of mandated representatives from each of the Waikato-Tainui hapuu within the vicinity of the project – namely Ngaati Wairere, Ngaati Maahanga, Ngaati Hauaa, Ngaati Tamainupo. This has paved the way for new opportunities to involve mana whenua in the Amberfield community being developed in Peacocke.
The Ngati Haua Mahi Trust saw the order of native trees as an opportunity to engage in a procurement process that acknowledged the unique relationship that Ngāti Hauā has with the land and the river as kaitiaki and mana whenua. It was transformative for all involved and enabled members to undertake environmental work that fed their mind, bodies and souls.
This opportunity also provided four local rangatahi with jobs and allowed them to gain valuable experience and skills - specifically around what can be achieved when environmental restoration work is required, and, more specifically, the benefits native trees provide for the local pekapeka population. Many of the planters stated their participation was life changing as they would be able to tell their whānau and children about the trees planted in this area for many generations to come.
Tema Tuhakaraina, one of the planters involved, commented: “We didn’t know the history of the area before we started working here, and it’s been really cool to hear the stories. After planting so many natives, when we see the big trees it blows us away to see what the native saplings will grow into.”