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

Gizzy Kai Rescue: Saving Food & Filling Bellies

Gizzy Kai Rescue was launched almost one year ago to the day. The idea formed when two Gisborne women Michele Ferrere and Alena Swannell discovered they shared the same dream of rescuing perfectly good food from the waste stream and diverting it to people in need. Individually they had felt overwhelmed by the enormity of the proposition but together they decided, they might just be able to make it happen.

The two enlisted the help of Sarah Punnet and started collecting intel on how best to carry out such an operation. Many of the systems and guiding principles that have gotten Gizzy Kai Rescue to where they are today were based on those of Wellington-based Kaibosh, New Zealand’s oldest food rescue organisation. Satisty, another food rescue operation based in North Canterbury was also a useful source of know-how and expertise.

The group’s aims fitted well with the Gisborne District Council’s goals to reduce the amount of green waste going to landfill by 40 percent and funds they acquired through the Waste Minimisation Fund along with a grant from ECT’s community resilience fund saw the venture take flight on October 31 of last year. Further grants from Lotteries and COGS, generous donations from local and national groups and businesses have helped to keep them going.

In their one year of operation Gizzy Food Rescue has rescued over 41 tonnes of food items and 700 kilos of non-food items from going to landfill.

Today a rotation of 40 volunteers see items collected once or twice a day from Pak n Save and Countdown and then sorted, ready to be picked up by seven different recipient organisations, which are responsible for distributing the goods to their clients. Items include bread, eggs, vegetables, tinned food, cereals, baby products and non-food items, most of which are unable to be sold because of damaged packaging.

One of the strengths of Gizzy Kai Rescue is a structure that ensures the rescued goods go to people in need. In partnering with organisations such as Supergrans and Te Hiringa Matua, which provide other wrap around services, there are existing relationships and more to the relationship than the provision of free food. These organisations know their clients, they can ensure aspects such as food safety, and there is less likelihood of issues such as on-selling or people not necessarily in need accessing the items, which can’t be guaranteed with other resources such as Food Pantries.

As one of GKR’s volunteers Heather points out “not everyone has transport and people can be shy about asking for food. To have these organisations who know the people in need are, means we know that this food is getting to people who need it – that’s really important. We trust there’s accountability, and it’s all going through the right channels”. This accountability is important to anyone invested in the process, volunteers as well as donors.

And as word has spread as to the tight ship Gizzy Kai Rescue have been running, so have wanna-be-donors been starting to knock at the door with offers of food to be rescued. With so much produce grown in the Tairawhiti you can imagine how much ends up being plowed back into paddocks, fed to animals or left to rot.

Sitting at the other end of the operations is a list of about 20 potential recipient organisations with clients in massive need. Recent research carried out by the Auckland City Mission has found that one in ten New Zealanders lives with some form of food insecurity.

With all of this capacity for growth at both ends of the Gizzy Kai Rescue equation, the organisation is at a crossroads. But while that it is usually an enviable position for a new enterprise to be in, Michele wishes there weren’t so many people struggling to put food on the table and there wasn’t so much food needing to be rescued.

Catering to the increased demand at both ends represents a huge logistical exercise, which Gizzy Kai Rescue is unable to meet in their current model. They have secured funding through ECT to hire a Fulltime Manager for the next three years – someone who can help take the organisation to the next level.

The Friday I was in at the GKR premises all of the volunteers in that day had been involved in GKR from the start. I was struck by the energy, laughter and enthusiasm that filled the space and floated out onto the street. Michele spoke of our “really giving community” which has enabled Gizzy Kai Rescue to be the success it is, as the volunteers themselves were all quick to speak about how their involvement with GKR actually feeds them.

Carol Proudfoot who also volunteers at other local charities explained “I’m widowed now and I have no intention of sitting at home feeling sorry for myself. You meet all sorts of people..I think [GKR] is a bloody good thing and there must be a hang of a lot of people out there who need this.”

Anne on the other hand, had gone out and got a casual paid job when she returned to Gisborne from Tauranga but hadn’t got any satisfaction from it “so I thought ‘stuff it, I’m going to resign and I’m going to do voluntary work’ and I love it. I feel, yeah..I’ve done something good, you know..” Anne is another prolific volunteer.

Times are changing. France for example have brought in laws making it is illegal for supermarkets to dump food. But for now, Gizzy Kai Rescue are fulfilling a priceless gap, which benefits both our people and our environment. They also know they can do more and are just looking for the right person to help them make the leap to the next phase which will enable them to feed more mouths and save more kai.

Is that person you, or someone you know? Spread the word.

And Gizzy Kai Rescue thank you for your awesome mahi, you’re doing an amazing job.

Find the Job Description on the Gizzy Kai Rescue Facebook Page.