by Ronnie Anderson, Department of Conservation | Originally published in the Wairarapa MidWeek

It’s a win win for the Wairarapa and local hapū with the creation of a plant nursery at Kohunui Marae.

The nursery will support hapū conservation and cultural ambitions while also providing employment opportunities and native plants for Wairarapa restoration projects.

The Kohunui Nursery project is part of a partnership between Kohunui Marae and the Aorangi Restoration Trust. Mahi mō te Taiao | Jobs for Nature funds totalling $145,000 over two years will support the establishment phase of the nursery.

According to Kohunui Marae Chair, Suzanne Murphy, the nursery fits perfectly with goals of self-sustainability, employment opportunities, and reconnecting whānau with the whenua, while practising kaitiakitanga within their rohe.

“We’re really excited about this project, it’s a fantastic opportunity for our whānau to further develop, reconnect and practice mātauranga Māori through the collection and growing of native plants.

“Playing a significant role in the creation of biodiversity corridors for Wairarapa’s native flora and fauna is also an honour for our hapū.”

As part of their partnership Kohunui Nursery will supply plants to the Aorangi Restoration Trust for the Tonganui Corridors project, which will establish native corridors from the Aorangi Forest Park to the foothills of the Remutaka Ranges.

Suzanne said that over time the nursery will provide South Wairarapa with eco-sourced plants, which are grown from seeds collected locally and therefore ideally suited to local conditions.

The funds for Kohunui Nursery will provide salaries for a Nursery Manager and for seasonal Nursery Assistants. It will also support 100 hours for a Project Manager who will work with whānau to set up the nursery. Project operation and governance will be led by whānau members and embedded in tikanga Māori.

“Manaaki whenua, Manaaki tangata, kōkiri whakamua. Care for the land, Care for the people, this we will champion as we go forward,” said Suzanne.

DOC Community Supervisor, Andrea Rutene, said this is exactly the sort of work the Jobs for Nature programme was established to support.

“This programme is supercharging conservation efforts of DOC, iwi and hapū, councils, and the wider community to implement kaitiakitanga. It will help restore the mauri and mana of Te Taiao (our nature) by controlling pests and weeds, restoring wetlands, and returning native bush, rivers, and streams to health.”

Mahi mō te Taiao / Jobs for Nature is a $1.245 billion investment in the creation of 11,000 jobs. It aims to help revitalise communities through nature-based employment and stimulate the economy post COVID-19. See–mahi-mo-te-taiao/ for more information.

If you’re interested in volunteering at the nursery contact

Kohunui Marae

Nursery manager Claudia Bird, left, and project manager Riki Te Tau inspect their crop of native seedlings at the Kohunui Nursery (Photo: Ronnie Anderson, DOC).