Credit: Original article can be found here
One of the Kotahitanga mō te Taiao Alliance projects is the restoration of Te Hoiere/Pelorus River.
While Martin Rodd was watching grizzly bears fish for salmon on a river in a Canadian rainforest he saw the scale at which organisations could create environmental change through collaboration.
Rodd, a Department of Conservation partnerships director, was on a boat tour through part of the 6.4 million hectare Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia that was led by the Homalco, the First Nations people of the area.
The experience was on a field study tour with The Nature Conservancy, a worldwide organisation that empowers local communities to address environmental issues and protect its land and waterways.
Formed in the United States in 1951 the non-profit organisation The Nature Conservancy was established by a group of scientists who wanted to take action to save threatened natural areas.
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The trip to Canada was a chance to see how stakeholders; government, indigenous people, NGOs, charitable organisations and businesses could create, develop and sustain positive environmental changes for the common good.
Back home, the Kotahitanga mō te Taiao Alliance is working with a similar aim, to improve the environment while achieving social, cultural, and economic outcomes.
The New Zealand initiative between eight iwi and six top of the south councils and the Department of Conservation was formalised in 2017 and is a model now replicated in other parts of the country.
Rodd said the recent partnership with The Nature Conservancy meant the alliance could draw on the significant global experience of large conservation initiatives like those in the Great Bear Rainforest, connecting environmental organisations with philanthropists and the community.
Department of Conservation partnerships manager Martin Rodd in the Abel Tasman National Park. (File photo)
The Nature Conservancy established a New Zealand base in 2016 and has around 4000 staff operating globally.
Conservation director Carl McGuinness said; “We didn’t want to duplicate existing efforts, but we believed we had some experience that could help complement the great conservation work that was happening in New Zealand.”
It used market-based mechanisms to help balance conservation and the economy.
“What we are always looking at is how to have people and nature thrive.”
Sometimes that required providing alternative, economically viable approaches when land or water use practices were under pressure.
The Great Bear Rainforest is on the Pacific coast of British Columbia, Canada. At 6.4 million hectares, it is one of the largest remaining tracts of unspoiled temperate rainforest left in the world.
McGuinness said it was a case of asking the community what its aspirations were then taking stock of where things were at, what was currently being done and what else needed to happen.
“We look at what people are trying to achieve, and then we identify gaps. If we have a skill-set that can help plug that gap then ideally, we bring experts in, sit them alongside local people and build local capability.”
The Kotahitanga mō te Taiao strategy, released last June, was created with the combined knowledge of the alliance members and technical specialists.
One of its first projects is the restoration of the entire Pelorus/Te Hoiere water catchment, from the mountains to the sea. It is being led by DOC, Ngāti Kuia and Marlborough District Council.
Other projects include wilding pine control in the Mt Richmond Forest Park, restoration of the Mahitahi/Maitai River, restoration of Moawhitu Lake and Wetland on d’Urville Island and Project Moturoa, which connects rangatahi with their whakapapa through a Mātauranga Māori modelled trainee ranger programme at Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology.
With the recent funding through the Jobs for Nature programme, the alliance has established 40 jobs with further projects in the pipeline.
The last light of the day shining above the Pelorus River looking out towards the Marlborough Sounds. (File photo)
Kotahitanga mō te Taiao Alliance co-chair and Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Kuia general manager David Johnston said the alliance members had a common purpose and were supporting each other to make decisions for the good of the environment.
“We’ve only got one planet and we realise we have got to think outside of our silos.
It was evident in the Māori proverb – Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini, which translated to – our strength derives from the many.
“When we all have a common focus then we can really do a lot better than trying to do it by ourselves.
“I just think it is amazing the alliance is able to make good and timely decisions and reach consensus most of the time,” Johnston said. “That’s what makes it so unique.”
If its members didn’t agree, they would go back to the drawing board and work until they did.
“We need to change the way that we do some things and work together because the alternatives for our environment, if we don’t, are pretty scary.”
He said the Kotahitanga mō te Taiao Alliance had the ability to create positive transformational change on the whenua, awa and moana across the top of the south. We might not see the benefits for some time, but that was no reason not to get started.
“If we don’t co-lead and start doing things, who else is going to do it? It is going to be left for our mokopuna.
“If we don’t look after the planet it won’t look after us.”