With the help of a cultural land advisor, North Canterbury farmer John Faulkner is creating a diverse mahinga kai - Māori food gathering site - on his riverside property.
"I've got the land, I've got the area..." That's what went through John Faulkner's mind while hearing about the efforts to regenerate rural land at a zone committee meeting.
Now with the help of Makarini Rupene (Ngāi Tahu), Faulkner was restoring the biodiversity on his land.
Down from Faulkner's dairy support block, on the south bank of the Waiau Uwha River, tōtara, mānuka, kānuka, cabbage trees, and flax were nestled once again.
"And approximately 50 or 60 rongoā māori species in here. They are all endemic of a five-kilometre radius, so they were here in the past."
Faulkner's 162-hectare dairy farm, a kilometre up the road, was integrated with the support block. In winter, the cows come down and graze on the 35h available to them.
He wanted a restoration site based on traditional Māori values and usage of the land. After learning about mahinga kai, and furthermore, nohoanga sites, Faulkner believed he had the space to develop a contemporary version.
"The nohoanga site was explained to me by Makarini [Rupene]. It was about the traditional gathering of mahinga kai.
"There was a resting area where the tribe would camp for a period of time ... but there are not many of the sites that are functional in Canterbury anymore."
Rupene worked for Environment Canterbury as a cultural land management advisor. He connects with farmers, explaining the concept of mahinga kai and the cultural values that go with it.
The mahinga kai philosophy, as described by Environment Canterbury, was about valuing natural resources that sustain life, including the life of people.
Rupene said it dates back to the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, which was in part an attempt to protect natural resources and assets.
"Then again, I jump to 1848 when the New Zealand Company purchased, here in Canterbury, 22 million acres from Ngāi Tahu. Under the agreement, 10 percent were to be put into reserves, hospitals, schools, and access to mahinga kai.
"For our people, when that purchase deal was done, which unfortunately wasn't honoured, there was 2000 pounds paid but there were no schools, no hospitals, and out of that 10 percent, less than 1 percent was put into reserves."
As fences popped up, it became apparent that access to mahinga kai and the cultural way of life was being eroded, Rupene said.
Faulkner said that the way Māori culture values land resonates with him.
Growing up in Morrinsville, almost every surname in the area was a Māori name, he said.
"Right beside our farm was the site of an old Māori pā. I was fortunate in having a history teacher that taught us a modern version of New Zealand history and we also had two marae about five kilometres from where we lived."
Sitting at the zone committee meeting, Faulkner got to the point where he had heard enough talking.
"I thought 'I've got the land, I know what needed to be done, and I'll give it a crack myself."
Faulkner said that while working around the regenerated land, he can feel its mauri [lifeforce].
"It's got something about it that just calms the soul."
Rupene tautokos, or supports, what Faulkner said.
"Interestingly enough, a lot of farmers on their farms have that one little special place.
"For us, we say mauri - life force - it has that specialness. And they feel it. It's a place that some farmers like to go."
To make the site family-friendly, Faulkner has set up a parkland area where children can explore. He hoped that one day it could even be a campsite - or nohonga - following in the traditional concept of mahinga kai.
"If you think about the cultural experience with mahinga kai, it's not an isolated person that is going out and doing some fishing, in the traditional concept it was the whole family.
"There may be more mahinga kai sites developed in the future but this could still be used as a base for the camping.
"You go out, do some harvesting, and come back sit around the fire, have a beer, and tell stories like we used to. It's about having that experience in the nature."
Rupene said it was brilliant to have someone with the commitment and vision of Faulkner.
"He's actually keeping the whakapapa of all these plant species alive. It still has that relationship to what originally was here.
"If we could get more landowners and industry groups supporting this, our environment minister pushing for this throughout all of New Zealand ... it has a follow-on effect which creates a healthier environment for everything through our drinking water and breathing our clean air."