Rotorua’s eastern suburbs recently became the focal point for a transformative environmental initiative as part of the Waitawa Restoration Project.
Twenty-five volunteers spent over five hours in the rain planting 1,500 riparian plants at the Waitawa Puna. Species included toitoi, harakeke, mānuka, carex, taratara, akeake, and black matipo.
Puna Ora lead, Lorraine Hall, orchestrated the event’s flow, ensuring every volunteer’s efforts were efficiently utilised. She said whānau were buzzing and loved planting even though the challenging weather kept younger whānau members indoors.
“Our whānau would’ve loved more of their mokopuna being part of the planting because it was history in the making. But it was a wonderful day with many commenting that they’re future-proofing for the next generations,” she says.
“While the initial steps are promising, continuous maintenance and strategic interventions, like weed removal, are essential to ensure the stream’s sustained health.”
Lorraine was instrumental in the earlier push for sustainable approaches, which led to the repurposing of wood and mulch after non-native trees were felled by the council in 2022.
Healthy Families Rotorua systems innovator, Stevee Wikiriwhi, hailed Lorraine’s leadership and her commitment to the land and its future. She also was thrilled with the turnout and said it showcased the synergy of the community and a shared vision for the environment.
“The restoration of Waitawa Stream goes beyond aesthetics – it’s about restoring the mana and narrative of the wai. There’s a strategic effort to rejuvenate a waterway that was once thriving and integrate plants of significance to the hapū, effectively serving dual purposes – ecological balance and cultural connection.
“Clean water is vital to our health, communities, and economy. We need clean water upstream to have healthy communities downstream. The health of rivers, lakes, and coastal waters depends on the streams and wetlands where they begin.
“With the project well underway, Rotorua and the Ngapuna community can anticipate a rejuvenated waterway that balances both ecological and cultural objectives, thanks to the dedicated efforts of its community and leaders,” she says.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council has committed to funding the restoration project, including the plants, while Rotorua Lakes Council, Te Arawa Lakes Trust, Te Arawa River Iwi Trust and Feeding Rotorua supported the kaupapa which resulted in an amazing planting day.