Iwi lead project to improve the mauri of the Manawatu River
An iwi-led project to help nurse the Manawatu River and its tributaries back to health has received a $534,000 boost from the taxpayer.
The Rangitane o Tamaki Nui a Rua project Tu te Manawa, to enhance iwi involvement in the river's restoration, was launched at Te Manawa in Palmerston North on Friday.
The grant from the Government's Te Mana o Te Wai fund was announced from a distance by Environment Minister Nick Smith and Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox.
Project spokesman Manahi Paewai said the goal was to bring people together, reconnect with the river and its tributaries and improve water quality.
The project would include extensive planting of native species along the river banks, building 50 kilometres of fencing, and installing eight whare or information kiosks along the river.
Paewai said the displays would revive the stories that were part of the region's history and culture.
"At the end of the day, it is about putting on our togs and going for a swim in the Manawatu River and its tributaries without fear we might contract something we do not want."
Horizons chairman Bruce Gordon said the regional council had committed $220,000 over the next two years to the $814,000 project.
"Improving water quality is something we need to address and we need to educate the community as we go, to understand what state it is in and whether it is safe or not."
He said it was a huge undertaking, based on connecting the community and the river.
Manawatu MP Ian McKelvie said water management and the way water was allocated was a big environmental challenge for New Zealand.
"And the only way to deal with it is as a collective.
"Programmes like this are a pretty important part of that."
Money for the project is also being contributed by the Palmerston North City Council, $10,000, Tararua District Council, $10,000, and Rangitane O Tamaki Nui a Rua, $40,000.
Project executive Hone Morris said the work would strengthen iwi involvement with the river.
Altogether, eight whare would be built at culturally significant sites.
The first, at Ferry Reserve, is due to be finished by the end of November.
"The whare will house historical, cultural and scientific narratives, and provide a place for people to engage at the river's edge."
All of the sites were assessed for possible flooding and the whare were designed for survival. Some would have extra deep foundations and the fixtures would be built to last.
Morris said a programme to enhance and protect culturally significant species would be developed and implemented at each site, allowing iwi, hapu, whanau and pupils from local schools to engage in community science.
Local landowners would also be involved in the project.
Horizons natural resources and partnerships manager Jon Roygard said the regional council was committed to working with Maori and any other groups with shared aspirations for the river.
Fox said water was a treasure and everything possible should be done to protect and improve its mauri, or life force.
"When the mauri of the river is strong, the mauri of its people and community will be strong."
It was important people who knew and loved the river led the project, she said.