Have you wondered where the mighty Manawatū River begins? The headwaters are in Ngāmoko or Norsewood in the north of the Manawatū Catchment. The site is significant to local hapū and an important habitat for native fish.
Aquatic life surveys of the site revealed high native fish values with dwarf galaxias in the headwaters of the Manawatū River. Dwarf Galaxias are non-migratory native fish meaning they do not travel to the sea to breed and live their whole lives in our rivers and streams. Many of our native fish are in decline so identifying and protecting sites like this is very important. Over the past several years iwi and hapū, local councils, landowners, and surrounding communities have gathered together to do just that. A powhiri at Rakautatahi Marae on the 27th July 2013 marked the beginning of what would become a huge collective effort to plant and fence the surrounding area to protect the awa. The first plantings were on land owned by Accord members Tararua District Council and Te Kauru. With funding from the Fresh start to Freshwater Clean-up Fund and support from Te Kauru, Horizons Regional Council and local communities a total of 4000 plants were put in the ground and 550 metres of stream fencing was completed.
In 2014 another 2617 plants were planted downstream on the same stretch of river and 2165 metres of fencing done to exclude stock from the river as well. Work has continued over the years with landowners in the area doing significant amounts of fencing and planting. These efforts received specialist advice and support from Horizons and were funded by either the Fresh Start for Freshwater Clean-up Fund, Tū Te Manawa or the Freshwater Improvement Fund; with landowners contributing 50% of the cost in all cases.
This year the planting continues, on June 29 a community planting day was held on the Drysdale Farm on Manawatū River Valley Rd. Working together volunteers got 3730 native plants in the ground. Landowners Blair and Penelope Drysdale wanted to allow the community and local schools to be able to come and visit and learn about cultural health and water monitoring. The initiative was led by the Drysdales and Te Kauru, with funding from the Manawatū awa Freshwater Improvement Fund community grant project and support from Horizons. There are also future plans to continue to join up the gaps between earlier plantings along the same stretch of stream. Riparian planting like this can have huge benefits for the health of our awa and the aquatic life within them. The root systems stabilise banks, reducing erosion and acting as a natural buffer that filters runoff. The plants also create shade, which can lower water temperature and block sunlight, reducing the growth of algae and weeds and cooling and oxygenating streams which supports macroinvertebrates and other aquatic life. As the plants grow they provide habitats for wildlife including birds and bees. The plants also create habitat for native fish by allowing undercuts to form under banks – creating hidey holes for fish to get away from predators.
If you are passionate about protecting your local environment and want to help protect the awa there is a lot of funding opportunities and support available. The Manawatū River Leaders’ Accord community grants are currently open for applicants. Applications will close on Friday 9 August at 4pm so get in quick. It’s not too late to apply, find out more today.
In 2018 an information kiosk was installed at the original planting site detailing the history and cultural significance of the site. This is one of eight whare installed at significant sites along the river as part of the Tū Te Manawa project; an iwi led project managed by Rangitaane o Tamaki nui a Rua and co-funded by Horizons and the Ministry for the Environment through the Te Mana o te Wai project. The Tū Te Manawa project aims to bring whānau, hapū, iwi and community back to the awa. Find out more and discover which Tū Te Manawa whare is closest to you here.