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by Ali Mackisack

Why not bring back whio, our threatened endemic blue duck to the Wairarapa? This was the challenge that left the room buzzing, at the conclusion of the inaugural Wairarapa Biodiversity Hui held in Masterton last weekend.

“There’s power in you guys working together. You can make this happen,” said Paul ‘Scratch’ Jansen, who has been working with community groups to bring back kiwi to the hills of Wellington.

“You guys,” was a group of around 80 people – many from the numerous catchment community, restoration and biodiversity groups that are already underway with a variety of projects throughout the region. The hui was organised and hosted by the Wairarapa Pūkaha to Kawakawa Alliance (WaiP2K) which provides a support and information network for these groups and individuals.

Paul Jansen from the Department of Conservation was one of the guest speakers, along with Charles Daugherty who is Chair of the Hawke’s Bay Biodiversity Trust, a similar support network to WaiP2K. Daugherty’s talk centered around the economic need to preserve, protect and restore our environment.

“The very foundation of our national wealth is our environment,” Daugherty says. “Nature is the basis of our two biggest export earners, agriculture and tourism, and it provides us with a whole ecosystem of services which we rely on for our everyday lives. What we do to nature, we are also doing to ourselves.”

“I find hope in people and the direction we’re starting to move in – the community-led environmental groups, Tangata Whenua, and the farming communities. And I find hope in the many actions that people are taking, from policy level to those individuals and groups getting out there and putting things right.”

“The climate emergency we’re facing will eclipse the current covid emergency and impact us for much longer. People are the cause of the problem, but we are also the solution if we choose to be.”

Those who attended the hui were also given the chance to connect, share and plan, and the WaiP2K committee members collected feedback which they will use in planning their future focus. They intend to run a winter workshop series with a focus on practical advice for restoration and trapping projects.

“It was so inspiring to explore the possibilities of large landscape-scale restoration,” says WaiP2K Chair, Gill Murray, “and to throw around ideas for bringing back special taonga species that once thrived here in the Wairarapa. The speakers’ messages were clear – be aspirational! I can’t wait to see what we can achieve here, both as individual groups and as a wider network.”

To learn more about the Wairarapa Pūkaha to Kawakawa Alliance and how you can get involved, visit www.waip2k.org.nz.