27 Jul 2015

Wattle tree removal brings pride to iwi

7:00 am on 27 July 2015

A project to control and eventually eradicate an invasive tree weed is benefiting Mount Tarawera and bringing pride to its local iwi.

Wattle trees, which are an introduced species, have continued to spread on the lower slopes of Mount Tarawera in Bay of Plenty.

If left untouched, the tree grows quickly and suffocates native flora and fauna.

Wattle trees are an Acacia species originating from Australia.

The tree weeds became established after the Tarawera eruption of June 10 1866, which reduced the surrounding area to wasteland.

Ruawahia 2B Trust is working with the Department of Conservation and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council to control its spread.

Trust chairman Ken Raureti said work began six years ago on the higher slopes to control wilding pines, but now the focus was on the wattle.

"Once we get them under control and the die-off starts, we will be able to see any remaining live trees popping through and we can go and control those."

Crews use drills to put holes into the trees, and poison is then injected to kill them.

Mr Raureti said that for Ngāti Rangitihi, if their maunga is ailing so too are its people, but that the project has created a renewed self-respect.

"Their sense of pride, they walk upright. People are asking them 'how is it going up on the mountain?'

"They are not only providing for their families, they have been upskilled and have become experts in this work, and they are being valued by the iwi, the community and now recognised by the regional council and contractors for their skill and expertise."

It is believed the project to eradicate the wattles may also reduce nitrogen leaching into Lake Tarawera, because the tree is a nitrogen fixing plant.