Ridding Mount Tarawera of Wilding Pines

Twenty five PF Olsen staff and family members braved a windy and cold (initially) day in December last year to pull unwanted wilding pines from the slopes of Mount Tarawera. The day was a community service day whereby staff (and family) donate their time and effort for a good community cause or project.

Ken Raureti from Ngati Rangitihi was our host and supervisor. Ken's warm, generous and good-humoured nature really made the day, along with his great stories and excellent oratory of Maori legends. Ken also welcomed each of us onto the mountain with a mihi and customary hongi. The mihi was to welcome not only each of us but also to acknowledge our ancestors (those that came before us). Ken also explained that Wahanga (the dome we were working on) was tapu as it was an ancient urupa, a burial ground of old, but that because our wilding pine work was a kaitiaki (care-taking), we had special authority to respectfully be on her slopes.

Ken welcomes each of us onto the Mountain with a customary hongi.

 Lana tackles a large and tenacious specimen (and finally prevails!) with Lake Tarawera majestically in the background. Seedlings ranged from just centimetres to up to 2m tall and were almost all Pinus contorta, a vigorous invasive species no longer planted commercially in New Zealand.

The wilding pine eradication project has been going for six years, sometimes with people working full-time on the Mountain. Ken told us that the voluntary work such as PF Olsen was doing was increasing and making a meaningful dent in the work programme. The Department of Conservation is a primary partner in the wilding pine control strategy, and to date between the Trust and DOC, have spent more than $430,000.00 on the project.

We learnt that Mount Tarawera (or Ruawahia as it is known by local Maori) is comprised of three domes. We were working on the female dome, Wahanga. This is where the current wilding pine eradication work is focussed. The other two domes, Tarawera and Ruawahia are male domes. Eradication work on Tarawera is complete for the time being.

As one might expect, with male and female domes, there was some wooing and courting in ancient times and during lunch, Ken orated the Maori legend relating to how it is often referred that Lake Tarawera remains as the "tears and sadness" left after Putauaki (also known as Mount Edgecumbe) left for White Island.

Ken Raureti pointed out that rather than water dividing his Iwi's Rohe, water joined and harmonised the various elements of land, sea, rivers and lakes. This is particularly important for Ngati Rangitihi whose Rohe encompasses both land and seascapes from the subalpine table lands of Mount Tarawera to the beaches of Matata, Maketu and surrounds.

The group

Team photo at the end of the day's work.