Iwi-led conservation project on Wellington's east coast doing wonders for native wildlife

An iwi-led conservation project on Wellington's east coast is doing wonders for our native wildlife like the banded dotterel or tūturiwhatu. 

Kirihi Nohotima-Hunia is a guardian of the rugged and isolated area.

It's a responsibility he holds close to his heart, given his whanau whakapapa back to this land. 

"It's fitting to come back here and give back to my people," Nohotima-Hunia said. 

Nohotima-Hunia is part of a small tight-knit group working to restore native trees and plants to the large area. 

"I want my children when they get older to see these forests, native plants, bird life. The last thing I want is for them not to hear what a tui sounds like," he said. 

The conservation project launched last year and is led by local iwi Taranaki Whanui with support from the Department of Conservation, through the Jobs for Nature fund.  

So far the team has laid more than 190 traps, planted over 5000 trees, and weeded 417 hectares. 

"The impact in a very short space of time that this young group has achieved is quite phenomenal," said Taranaki Whanui spokesperson Lee Hunter. 

The project is doing wonders for native wildlife like the endangered dotterel bird, which is returning to the coast in droves. 

"The birthrate has increased significantly since this team started working," Hunter told Newshub. 

Their work is not only improving our environment but lives as well. Two people who were on the benefit are now in work, and the team say they're proud to be putting the mana back in mana whenua. 

"The work we're doing is turning what used to be way back a beautiful native forest back to that," said plant nursery manager Zoe Snowdon. 

Project coordinator Vyona Broughton said it's "extremely rewarding" because the group "are basically setting this up for future generations".

Though there's still a long way to go, this infectiously passionate group say they're up for the challenge. 

"The proof is in the pudding, if you stay with it, working hard, you get results," Nohotima-Hunia said. 

As the old saying goes, do the mahi, get the treats. 

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