Sandra Groves recently stopped by the Tairawhiti Environment Centre to catch up with the Centre Manager Rena Kohere to learn about Te Rea, the Tairāwhiti Agroecology Recovery Programme, funded through The Ministry for the Environment and Department of Conservation’s Jobs for Nature.

The idea behind Jobs for Nature is to help revitalise communities through nature-based employment and stimulate the economy post-COVID-19 on both private and public conservation land. Here in the Tairāwhiti local kaimahi are restoring their whenua, waterways and protecting native species through Te Rea. 

The programme is a collaborative venture of whānau, hapu and iwi, the Department of Conservation, Ministry for the Environment and Tairāwhiti Environment Centre and is supported by a range of government agencies, working towards catchment restoration.

Te Rea came about after an eight-week pilot funded by the COVID-19 redeployment Provincial Development Fund, with two whanau groups working in Mangatu and Ruatorea. Since October Te Rea has grown to 8 whānau/hapu teams and 62 kaimahi (workers).

Talking to Rena, the focus is on supporting whānau to undertake kaitiakitanga on their whenua and encouraging an ongoing commitment to Taiao, the environment, in our rohe. 

Many of the kaimahi are already used to working on the land, having come from other fields like forestry or farming. With the support of various specialists, kaimahi are gaining new practical skills and qualifications and increasing their knowledge of other environmental areas through a mix of both theory and hands-on experience. 

While The Environment Centre is the hub for business development support for Te Rea, ensuring funding best practice and safety, whānau set their own work plan and focus, depending on whānau and hapu aspirations for their whenua. 

The team in Ruatorea for example have a strong background in fencing, and have added pest monitoring and control to their skillset. Te Wairoa at Te Araroa started by maintaining the Project Crimson plantings at Matahi Marae and protecting a pingao population that was at risk from stock and invasive weeds. The Uawa team came with the skills and passion for water monitoring and their taonga species, the tuna, and have shared these skills with the other teams through wananga.  

Kaimahi benefit from regular wananga with each other and local experts as well as formal training and qualifications through EIT. Skill sharing is crucial and the teams have learnt from Dr Wayne Ngata about matauranga Māori and Taiao, Tina Ngata on freshwater monitoring and have had Graeme Atkins, Joe Waikari and Trudi Ngawhare from the Department of Conservation sharing knowledge about their work in the region.

Ripeka Irwin, Team Lead for the Te Wairoa Team in Te Araroa, is a big advocate for Jobs For Nature. She says that joining the programme was a far cry from working as a subcontractor for the Council doing amenity maintenance. 

She has enjoyed the variety of work and focusing on ‘what needs help’, whether it is the land, river or sea. Her introduction to Taiao mahi, or environmental work, was at Matahi Marae on the East Cape, maintaining Project Crimson plantings, shelter windbreaks of native trees, pest control and monitoring. Right now, she is at the Peka Block Awatere building a native nursery and vegetable garden which will bring an abundance of food for the community and security of supply of native species for further restoration work. 

Ripeka says it was while in lockdown last year that she realised the value of these kinds of resources and since doing this mahi her biggest learning has been to slow down, to care about the environment and appreciate what is around her. Ripeka is hoping the Jobs For Nature funding will continue, as her dream is to carry on doing this mahi and involve even more people in the community. 

Te Rea reflects the region’s demographics, with many young people getting the opportunity to work for the environment and gain skills and knowledge at the same time. 95% of the 62 kaimahi are Māori, 37 were previously unemployed, and 17 are under the age of 25. 35 of the kaimahi are completely new to this kind of work but have quickly become some of the strongest advocates for the protection and restoration of our environment. 

Rena says this is one of the reasons Te Rea pushed to get funding throughout the coast. This work is important in a region such as ours, which is so dependent on primary industry and therefore our environment. In order to grow as a region and achieve our environmental restoration goals we also need to invest in growing our people as well. Te Rea has the potential to be transformational for mana whenua as well as our Taiao and we’re looking forward to seeing the impact this incredible initiative will have well into the future. 

The 8 teams are: 

Te Wairoa at Te Araroa

 Ruatorea with Hikurangi Enterprises

Taniwha Connections at Uawa

Whaia Titirangi at Titirangi Maunga with Ngati Oneone

Te Ao Tipu at Tarere Marae, Makauri

Maungarongo at Matawhero with Nga Uri o Te Kooti

Mangatu with Nga Ariki Kaiputahi 

Te Mahia with Rongomaiwahine Iwi Trust

Story by Sandra Groves

Images Supplied by Te Rea

The Sweet Life

I’m positively buzzed. I was sitting at my desk some months ago when – DING! – “you’ve got mail.” Sheridan Gundry had sent an email to The Gisborne Herald about a swarm of bees in her backyard. If you have never seen one they are dangerous-looking things. Menacing and wandering. A pretender to the throne has hatched in the hive and there can only be one queen in the hexagonal home.

I picked up the phone and gave Sheridan a buzz. It turns out she was the communications manager in her house. It was her partner Mike who was the bee man. We got chatting about the funny honey-making insects and that was that. As a perennial YES man I put down the phone having agreed to take up the sweet task of beekeeping.

The best part of beekeeping is the minimal amount of anything. The bees do the work.  Your job, more or less, is to not let them die. Kind of like children or plants.

The hardest part of beekeeping is the minimal amount of anything. You have to remember you helped bring them into this world and not forget they exist.

But the hobby ain’t cheap. The gear costs a fair few hundred. Thankfully our species is pretty flaky. 

“Oh beekeeping sounds cool! 

Let’s give that a go babe, 

I think we could really make a go at this!”

People love experimenting and trying things out. You probably know three or four people who have given up on the craft already. Go borrow all their gear until they forget they ever gave it to you.

As it was, my sister had bought Practical Beekeeping before she gave up on the honey game and handed that over. Another friend lent us all the other gear we needed. 

But it was Mike who was the real MVP. Someone who has very much not given up on the sweet life. Mike runs beekeeping workshops at the Environment Centre and has hives all over the show. It was he that got the ball rolling finding a swarm of bees out in the wild, captured it and brought the usurper queen and her followers to our kingdom. 

What a kind man. 

Now my brother and I are beekeepers. Jethro bought the boxes and paint so my total outgoings so far is 26 dollars to account for the six-pack of beers that must accompany us to the hives.

For me, joy in life comes from toddling into a new world for a while and having a look around, talking to the people inside their spacetime and hanging about in their secret worlds. The honey world is one worth dipping your toes in for a little nectar.

Bee people are just like us, except maybe a little sweeter. They walk and talk about bees, a gentle hum in conversation about the weather, flowers and sky. It’s a relaxed hobby, like panning for gold.

And like gold, there are those who enjoy the business, and there are those with the Fever.

The crazy eye.

Darting tongue.

Shaky hands.

The big M.

Manuka is where money is at and where the bad blood starts. Don’t look at them, just keep walking. If you do get stuck talking to one, DO NOT ask them where their hives are in case they take you as a thief for their gold.

Anyway. That’s all I know. Jethro and Mike have done most of the beekeeping. I’m more of a moral support worker. Conceptual and thoughtful.

Start asking around. Call up your flakiest friends with too much spare coin and recommend they give beekeeping a go today.

Start asking around. Call up your flakiest friends with too much spare coin and recommend they give beekeeping a go today.

There is a free course at EIT and the Environment Centre runs courses from time to time.

Story and Photographs by Jack Marshall.

Local Business Pitching in to Resolve Festival Waste

A local business venture is pitching in to reduce the number of tents that end up in landfill after festivals and events around Aotearoa and, just as it has its beginnings here in Gisborne, it will be launched at Waiohika Estate for Rhythm & Vines 2020-21.

Meet Lisa Taylor, otherwise known as Camp Mother to thousands of kids who have passed through the gates of RnV over the past 15 years. Lisa first stepped into her role as Camp Mother in 2007, when she was employed to manage one of the BW Campgrounds. In that first year her team were responsible for 1500 campers, a number which swelled over the years, culminating in the 4000 punters that camped at Te Kuri A Tuatai Marae under Lisa and her crew’s care.

Lisa attributes the success of the campgrounds she’s managed over the years, “we’ve only ever had to cut one wristband” she says, to the spirit of manaakitanga, a way of receiving their visitors which comes naturally to her and her crew of camp managers and staff, which has remained fairly consistent over the years.  

Lisa’s role has now extended to HOD Festival Camp Manager, managing all of the eight campsites and staff, which this year includes seven Camp Managers. All of the Camp Managers except one are women, Māori, and “bloody amazing” Lisa says. “They’ve got that natural manaaki, which they bring from the marae. As soon as the kids arrive we’re looking after them. By the time they leave, they’re calling us ‘Aunty’, ‘Whaia’ or ‘Bro’”.  

The Camp Managers see their main jobs as keeping their campers safe, “We look at it like, that could have been my daughter or my son – we know we’d be grateful that there was someone looking after them”.  By the end of each festival, life stories have been shared, and many a new Facebook friendship has been formed between staff and campers. 

Meet Lisa Taylor, otherwise known as Camp Mother

Lisa strongly believes that camping is one of the success stories for R&V. She notices more and more kids coming back year after year and she says that often tickets are selling before the lineup has even been announced, “What it’s done is it’s flipped the whole experience of R&V on its head I suppose. Kids are now coming for the experience rather than just the lineup”.

Lisa reckons they were quite strategic about how they went about managing the camps, especially those early days,  “knowing our communities more than anyone, we were able to mitigate any mischief making.   We had some hearty locals stay at our campsite to uphold a kind of family atmosphere that encouraged good behaviour”. 

In collaboration with one of R&V and BW’s founders, Andrew Witters, Lisa has now applied that same underpinning of kaupapa Māori, namely the principal of kaitiakitanga, to approach the problem of so-called single use tents at events such as R&V; that solution is called ‘Bookatent.’ 

As Andrew Witters puts it “there’s no hiding behind the fact that until now, two days after R&V there has always been this sea of rubbish, namely tents” and while enterprising locals had done their best to turn the situation into an opportunity by passing the tents onto charities to sell as fundraising, Andrew says that in reality “the issue had overwhelmed a lot of the charity groups – it became their problem”. 

Lisa and her camping crew in front of the morning’s set up of the Bluebird range

Bookatent has been created by Lisa and Andrew to provide sustainable tent solutions for events in New Zealand, which will be providing pre-pitched camping options at various festivals around the country this coming season, starting here with Rhythm & Vines. 

Their Bookatent website provides an easy-to-use booking system for tent and ticket packages at the different events, offering punters a quality festival experience that starts with a purchase and ends with the good vibe of reducing their environmental impact at their favourite events.  Bookatent has also joined the Sustainable Business Network Product Stewardship scheme with the catch cry ‘If you can’t “Love Your Tent”, love one of ours and we will use it again, and again, and again.’

Some of Lisa’s 200 camping staff start as early as August and last week began the mammoth task of pitching perfectly formed lines of tents ready for occupation come December 27. There are ranges of both nylon and canvas tents, catering to 2 – 4 people and with optional extras such as stretchers, which tackle the problem of airbeds – one of the worst offenders when it comes to landfill-fillers. 

Rhythm & Vines is the first festival in Australasia to do anything of this scale, and the Bookatent team had one of the tent manufacturers there onsite for set up, for problem-solving and to help shape their future plans, in which they hope will include more and more event campsites filled with booked tents as opposed to cheap tents only fit for a single outing.

Some of the canvas range already settled in amongst the vines.

“We’re all learning” both Lisa and Andrew agree, but in bringing together their experiences from the past into play they hope that this new venture of theirs will not only make a big difference at Rhythm & Vines but will help change that particular aspect of festival culture across the country. They hope that Bookatent will provide a sustainable and affordable option for local groups, schools and events too – a local business which provides a local solution to a global problem. 

Story & photographs by Sarah Cleave.


As hunters we just wanted to give back. Over our time hunting and fishing the Upper Waioeka we have seen Whio numbers plummet to the point where we thought we would lose these comical little creatures from the area’s rivers all together.

We managed to pull together a group of like-minded backcountry individuals by leaving notes in local hut books and writing in hunting magazines asking for help. The reply was deafening, turns out hunters really do care about the environments they hunt in and in particular the Waioeka. We now have volunteers from as far away as the South Island, Wellington, Tauranga and Gisborne all signing up to help. 

Luckily Game Gear came to the party and decided to back the project financially. It’s somewhere the owner has hunted for years and the idea of conservation had been on his mind for some time. He just needed an ethical way to go about it.

We have been inundated with volunteers. The local Enviroschools Wai Restoration Programme helped us to lay out 3.5km of accessible trapline in just one afternoon. It’s incredible to see such a program producing such skilled conservationists. If I had the means, I’d employ these students tomorrow but told them they need to finish school first. Everyone is keen to get involved from retirees to school groups. The Goodnature A24 stoat traps we are using only need to be checked twice a year and two weekends is something our busy volunteer force is happy to commit to. 

Currently we have 17km of trapline comprising of 170 odd traps under protection, with a plan to lay out another 9km in August. There’s still a lot of available river habitat and plenty of territories for juvenile Whio to move into.

Seeing some incredible early success with multiple kills under most traps and birds paired up ready to produce their first clutch of chicks in a long time this season, we are looking to expand the project. Theres still some prime Whio habitat that needs protecting and we have the volunteers to do it. 

We just need local businesses to get involved and support this groundbreaking project for the region with sponsorship of traps, lures and gas. It’s a great story to tell and makes for some pretty exciting staff trips.

For a long time hunters have been seen as the antithesis of conservation but we are here to say that’s simply not the case. We care about the environment and are giving back just as much if not more than any other backcountry user group and are having a lot of fun doing it.

If you’re keen to get involved with the Eastern Whio Link contact Sam Gibson on 0277750016 or @sam_the_trap_man on instagram.

Words & Photograph by Sam Gibson

Ten Speeds To Freedom

Never has Gisborne seen so many booties on bike seats – the cyclists’ renaissance is truly here. As reported in The Guardian, ‘Bicycles are the new toilet paper’. Sales are booming and shops are running low on stock. Because let’s face it: Walking sucks. It’s boring, you don’t go far and it takes an age to get anywhere.

For any reputable cyclist city one thing is a must: A community bike shed. The first space I went to was a Melbourne spot called The Bike Shed (not very creative with the name). They had old bikes ready to be repaired with helpful volunteers who’d not lift a spanner for the world… Instead, they would happily teach anyone how to fix a bike and had tools ready for willing hands. Bring in a bent wheel and you’d leave with it straight.

“Can you fix my bike for me?”

“No. We are not a bike shop and will not fix your bike for you. However, we will teach you to fix your bike.”

Taken from The Bike Shed’s FAQ page.

The reason it works is because of the overabundance of broken bikes. They’re everywhere, under the house, in the garage, on the roof and ready for repair. If you’re missing a pedal, you can replace it or give the remains to a bike shed and contribute to someone else’s two-wheeled Frankenstein transportation device.

This is not some wacky new idea, the country is bountiful with bike sheds. Auckland has Tumeke Cycle Space and Christchurch RAD Bikes. There’s a bike shed in nearly every corner of the globe and it is now time for an East Coast addition.

If you’re wondering where on earth to start, there’s a handy little how-to guide called How to Start a Bike Kitchen set up by folks in the urban cycling Mecca, Portland.

To make this work we need to get our cogs into gear: 

First, we need a space. As retail struggles and the popularity of ‘for lease’ signs boom, we need to repurpose our city-centre as a space for our community to share. We need to find a shop to share with like-minded souls, or simply populate one of the empty ones and fill it with tools, local tinkers and comfortable couches. 

Second, we need parts! Bikes gathering dust can be brought to the shed and put to good use. Dull and dead bikes can be torn apart, stripped of parts and stored for the next repair. Decent ones can be kept aside for new riders to build upon and to repair their bikes for cheap.

Finally, we need you. Community members with cognition of cycles, who prefer their hands dirty with grease, and who like to dabble in a chin wag and share a little bike knowledge. The East Coast is numerous in engineers, builders, sculptors and DIY-ers. If we feed you enough coffee and biscuits can we get this city cycling?!

We have a thriving mountain biking community, flatlands and plenty of know-how. We have the opportunity to build the future we want. We don’t need to ask for a better city, in the true DIY spirit, we need to do it ourselves.

If you’re interested in being a spoke in the wheel of our cycling revolution, get in touch. We need all the Gizzy locals we can get to donate old bikes, slurp a cup of coffee and help bring about the grand opening of Gisborne’s first community bike shed.

Get in touch via

By Jack Marshall


When I ran for council, I was pretty shocked at how much power we give to Government.

We make ourselves powerless in so many ways – by outsourcing our food and water, relying on local government to do the best they can with the limited resources they have: Fix the environment, fix our waterways, house the homeless… But keep our rates down!

The way this situation plays out, it makes it really hard to achieve meaningful change. We just expect too much to be done for us. It’s important that we ourselves become more active and work together to solve some of these issues ourselves.

So our first action should be to take back some of that power. A really good way of doing that is within our neighbourhoods …

““If we are to save our cities we must revitalise our neighbourhoods first””


Those who were around in the pre-screen days will reminisce about knowing their neighbours well. Kids biked from place to place and everyone knew where all the kids were because there was a pile of bikes outside little Susie’s house. Most houses were built with front porches because without a tv, parents would sit on the front porch and watch the kids play, enjoy the well-kept front gardens and socialise with their neighbours.

Society was set up for neighbours, but not so much now. We are all strangers in our own streets and really we should be asking ourselves what this means for the next generation. I’m sad for my children who don’t explore the neighbourhood with friends, that there’s no more after school games at the local park, all play is under an adults watchful gaze. I miss how alive the streets are with kids playing. I’m worried that our children are almost prisoners in their own homes. Why should the next generation care about the wider world if they’re increasingly being excluded from it?

I’m thinking a lot about the relevance and the need for “neighbourhood organisations”. Not just online ones, but real-life opportunities for the community to come together.

There are a few organisations in Gisborne – Ka Pai Kaiti and E tu Elgin, for example. In the run up to last years’ elections E tu Elgin hosted GDC candidates to discuss the issues they were facing, such as the absence of playgrounds in Elgin, as well as both Cobham and Elgin schools seeming to be teetering on the brink of closure.

It was exciting for me to see people engaging in the political process through their neighbourhood organisation. This is where change can begin to happen. When people come together, we can begin to fix some of our own problems collectively. What could be achieved if all neighbourhoods had their own organisation? I started researching…

These tips came from an online journal:


  • Use people’s immediate interest to organise people to act on a specific, local, winnable issue on a seemingly one-time basis
  • The victory when won, creates a sense of efficacy
  • Allows the organiser to start people working on other issues

I messaged the organiser of the successful “Wainui Beach Community” group that has around 1300 members and a large group of active participants. I asked her how she created hers, to which she replied with the following:

“I started the page by adding about 25 people whom I knew lived in Wainui and encouraged them to tell their friends & family. Whether they did, I’m not sure. It took a while to get people to start engaging & posting (a couple months!) but it started and has since kept going. It’s mostly been organic”

With the possibility of coronavirus on the horizon, this seems like as good a time as any to take that first step in getting to know our neighbours, other people on our street, if we don’t already. If people in our neighbourhood do have to go into isolation over the coming weeks or months, do they have someone to bring them food or other supplies if they run short? The simple exchange of phone numbers could be as much as required, but let’s make this an opportunity to bring together our fractured communities and show each other we care.

If you live in Inner Kaiti, have a look for the Inner Kaiti Community I have started on Facebook and if you live elsewhere, the process can be as simple as a simple letterbox drop or door knock, or of course, Facebook. You might just want to stick with the people who live on your street, or a section of your road, if it’s a big one.