Mataura Marae aims for self-sufficiency
The Mataura and Districts Marae plans to become self-sufficient by generating its own power and starting a commercial aquaponics business.
Chairman Terry Pohatu said the marae was investigating installing an 80 Kw hydroelectric power plant on the Waimumu Stream, which would provide power to the marae and the four flats it owns, and pump water to a terraced aquaponics garden it plans to establish on 7ha of wasteland behind the wharenui.
The gardens would grow commercial watercress and puha, and native lamprey, eels and freshwater crayfish, which could also be sold commercially, would feed on the organic material in the water, he said.
The marae had placed a mātaitai on the Waimumu Stream to stop it being further developed or polluted.
"We're saying no more, and we're going to go even further than that and clean it up upstream further than here.
"We're talking old car bodies, there is a lot of stuff in there that needs to come out."
He was not worried about water quality and using the water from the stream for growing food commercially.
"It's not as bad as it used to be, and we plan on making it better. When we circulate it through the ponds and back to the stream, it will be better than we got it."
Marae project manager Oti Murray said the venture would "empower every member of the hapū".
"We want to be in a position where we can give our young people loans to start their own businesses."
The aquaponics garden would be 50m long, four storeys high, and would turn over a crop every five weeks, he said.
There was also the possibility of launching tourism ventures, and hosting groups in the wharenui once the project was operating.
Land not used for the commercial venture would be planted out in native plant species and artworks and carvings would be established.
Work on that project had begun and would continue next year, with help from Environment Southland.
The marae had discussed funding the project, which also included repairs to marae buildings, with Te Puni Kōkiri, Nga Kete Matauranga Pounamu Charitable Trust, the Department of Internal Affairs Te Tari Taiwhenua, and the Mataura Licensing Trust, as well as some overseas investors.
"We're not expecting much change out of $5m," Pohatu said.
"It's all positive, very positive."
An Environment Southland spokeswoman said establishing a hydroelectric plant on the stream would "probably" need a land use consent for bed disturbance and may also require a water permit if water was to be diverted through the hydroelectric plant.