An ecological turnaround is on the cards for the 175 hectares of farmland along Tasman Road.
An iwi Church of England trust board recently said it was taking its dairy herds off the farms, recognising that dairying was a major polluter. That decision reflected its commitment to the environment and to future generations.
The Ōtaki and Porirua Trusts Board (OPTB) has managed dairy farming operations in Ōtaki for 100 years. It will soon have no dairy cows on the land known simply as “North Farm” and “South Farm” on either side of the road leading from the township to the beach. It currently has beef cattle on the South Farm and a breeding dairy herd on North Farm. The dairy animals will be transferred to another OPTB farm at Manakau.
The decision to exit dairying has led to speculation in the community about future use of the land, including the possibility of housing.
“That’s possible, but there are plenty of other sites in Ōtaki that could be used for housing,” says OPTB chair Rachael Selby. “That’s not to say it won’t happen – the land is really a blank canvas.”
The board has already discussed its strategic plan with Raukawa trustees, and another hui is planned for June to receive feedback. With some members representing the Church of England, the board will also be presenting to the vestry.
Rachael says she would like to hear everyone’s ideas.
“We invite anyone in Ōtaki who has an idea to let us know. Nothing is off the table.”
However, given the board’s clear desire as kaitiaki to enhance and protect the land, projects such as a wetland park and stream restoration are likely to find favour.
A restoration proposal for the lower Waitohu Stream has already been supported by the board. It was presented to the board by local ecologist Caleb Royal in February and is a collaboration with Greater Wellington Regional Council. It focuses on enhancing the habitat for spawning inanga (whitebait). The board is enthusiastic about the project, seeing it as a positive opportunity for restoration on the farm and the stream.
The strategic plan reinforces a commitment to kaitiakitanga (guardianship), reflecting a growing appreciation of how the land should be protected and activities not harm the environment.
Board general manager Troy Hobson says the negative environmental effects of current farming practices on whenua owned by the OPTB will be reduced.
“We expect the iwi and the community will recognise the growing acceptance of the need for all land owners to take meaningful steps to restore the environment for future generations,” Troy says.
The board is a registered charitable organisation created under the Ōtaki and Porirua Trusts Act 1943.
It has 10 members who are appointed by the Governor-General, five of whom represent the Diocesan Trusts Board, four representing the Raukawa Marae Trustees, and one representing the Ministry of Education.
Its core business is land-based asset management (including dairy farming, land leases and rental properties). The income generated is applied to its scholarship funds for post-primary education to members up to the age of 20 who whakapapa to the iwi confederation of Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga, Te Atiawa ki Whakarongotai, and Ngāti Toa Rangatira.
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